Plug Power Builds Fuel Cell Factory
Are fuel cells catching on? Plug Power, a pioneer in the fuel
cell industry incorporated in 1997 with 25 employees, now has 250.
The company broke ground this week for a 50,000 square feet
manufacturing facility that will double its current space.
The new facility will enable Plug Power to begin beta unit
production of Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems for
field testing starting next year and commercial sale beginning in
2001. "We are literally bursting at the seams," said Plug Power
President Gary Mittleman. "With this plant we will be able to meet
all of the early commercial product on demand, for worldwide
distribution by GE Fuel Cell Systems."
The company, based in Latham, NY, expects to employ 300 persons
by the end of the year. A joint venture of DTE Energy (Detroit
Edison) and Mechanical Technology, Plug Power earlier this year
signed a memorandum of understanding with GE Power Systems to form
"GE Fuel Cell Systems," a joint venture that will sell, install and
service Plug Power-designed and manufactured fuel cell systems.
Plug Power has developed a prototype residential fuel cell
system that produces more than enough power to meet the energy
requirements of an average-sized home. The units will operate on
natural gas, propane or methanol and can achieve 40% electrical
efficiency in simple-cycle operation. When excess heat generated by
the fuel cell is captured and re-used, overall efficiency can reach
Under the terms of the understanding, GE Fuel Cell Systems will
distribute Plug Power fuel cells for residential and small
commercial power applications worldwide, except for Michigan,
Indiana, Ohio and Illinois. As part of its fuel cell
commercialization approach, GE plans to partner with a select
number of gas distribution companies, electric utilities, electric
service companies and power marketers.
In mass production, a residential fuel cell system is expected
to retail for $3,000-5,000. At these prices, fuel cells can
generate electricity at 7-10 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on
the fuel costs in a given market.
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