Grid Scale, Storage

PEM Fuel Cells Gain Momentum

H.M. Cragg installed a five kW 100 AMP fuel cell system at Loretel Systems Central Office. The installation of GenCore proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell power backup technology is a result of the collaborative efforts of H.M. Cragg Co., the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Plug Power and the cumulative energies of Minnesota-based 3M and Entegris.

“PEM Fuel Cell technology is the cost effective and clean power alternative of the future,” said Paul Heggestad, H.M. Cragg president. The PEM fuel cell units are housed outside the Loretel Systems facility and connected to a specially designed fuel storage cabinet. Each cabinet contains six hydrogen cylinders, which, in tandem, provide up to 12 hours of clean backup power in the event of a power outage. Up to four fuel cell systems can be daisy-chained together for delivery of additional kilowatts and/or longer run time. The PEM fuel cell technology uses software and a modem to communicate remotely with Loretel Systems technicians. It can notify them of any alarm conditions such as low supply of hydrogen gas or an electrical malfunction via e-mail, BlackBerry or pager. PEM Fuel cells start at $20,000 plus installation, but require little maintenance and emit only heat and water as byproducts. With alternative battery backup power running at comparable costs, typically requiring significant maintenance and complex disposal techniques, fuel cells are being adopted as an energy alternative, especially in terms of return on investment (ROI) for Midwest telecom and utility companies. Loretel Systems was one of two telecom providers to receive a grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, which awarded grants to telecom providers demonstrating interest and commitment to clean energy via deployment of a fuel cell backup system.