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It won’t be long before natural gas users will be able togenerate their own electricity at home, according to Plug Power,which announced that it has completed the successful demonstrationof a natural gas-based proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cellsystem. The residential- sized system-which includes a fuel cellstack, power conditioner and a Johnson Matthey fuelprocessor-produced in excess of 4 kW of electricity this week atthe company’s upstate New York development facility.
This development soon could affect the manner in which millionsof homes receive electricity. Plug Power said the operation of acomplete system on natural gas is an important step toward bringingits residential units to market in 2001. The natural gasbreakthrough means that the more than 70 million homes that alreadyuse natural gas for heating and cooking in the U.S. alone willeventually be able to use natural gas-powered fuel cells to meetall their energy needs.
By coupling the use of low-cost fuels like natural gas with thehigh efficiency of fuel cell technology, it is estimated that thecost to consumers for electricity will be as much as 20% less thancurrent electricity costs.
“This event represents a significant juncture in our company’sgoal of advancing home fuel cell technology,” said Gary Mittleman,President & CEO. “Though Plug Power is designing systems to runoff a variety of fuels, the ability to utilize the existing naturalgas infrastructure provides an important benefit to homeowners inour largest target markets-the United States and Europe.”
The natural gas system utilizes the same design as Plug Power’s7 kW fuel cell prototype-which has operated since June of 1998 onhydrogen and which was the first PEM fuel cell system to provide ahome’s complete electricity independent from the utility grid. Thisweek, Plug Power integrated a Johnson Matthey HotSpotT natural gasfuel processor into its fuel cell system. The AC electricitygenerated from the fuel cell was used to power part of thecompany’s laboratory facility. Last month, Plug Power also operateda methanol-based fuel cell power generation system.
“Plug Power’s mission is to become the first company to make andprofitably sell one million fuel cell systems; the achievements ofthe past six months play a large role in our realization of thatendeavor,” Mittleman added.
According to Jack Frost, Fuel Cell Business Manager for theBritish-based Johnson Matthey, “The use of fuel cells in the homeis one of the most exciting revolutions in energy generation theworld has seen. It has the potential to provide cheaper and cleanerpower where people need it most. The reduction in CO2 emissionsmade possible by these systems will benefit the whole planet. Weare delighted that Johnson Matthey’s expertise in fuel conversiontechnology has helped Plug Power to make this demonstrationpossible.”
Johnson Matthey PLC is a global company with headquarters in theUnited Kingdom. Its shares are traded on the London Stock Exchange(JMAT) and it also has a Level 1 ADR program in the United States(OTC Bulletin Board: JMPLY – news). Johnson Matthey is a worldleader in advanced materials technology, applying the latesttechnical skills to add real value to precious metals and otherspecialized materials. Among its principal activities are themanufacture of specialty chemicals, catalysts and pollution controlsystems, pharmaceutical compounds and the refining, fabrication andmarketing of platinum group metals. Johnson Matthey’s web siteaddress is www.Matthey.com.
Plug Power (www.plugpower.com), based in Latham, NY, is a jointventure between DTE Energy Company (Detroit Edison) and MechanicalTechnology Inc., an early developer of fuel cell technologies.
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