Biogas Fuel Cell Power Plant for California

The city of Los Angeles has added a 250 kW Direct FuelCell power plant to the Los Angeles power grid that will operate with biogas fuel generated by the Terminal Island Treatment Plant in San Pedro. The city said this is one of the first applications of biogas to supply a large fuel cell unit. While fuel cells are often touted as an clean alternative fuel, most current applications use natural gas, a fossil fuel, for hydrogen fuel production.

Los Angeles, California – September 23, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] City and state officials, energy policymakers, environmental groups and other dignitaries participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to dedicate the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Terminal Island Fuel Cell Power Plant, which provides 250 kW of environmentally clean electricity, which is enough power to serve about 250 households. FuelCell Energy, the manufacturer of the unit, said the plant uses up to 50 percent less fuel per kWh than the average conventional power plant and produces nearly zero emissions of pollutants. “It is fitting that this facility is being opened in an area that has historically been burdened by port-related pollution,” said Councilwoman Janice Hahn, whose district includes the Port of Los Angeles. “This is a great example of City departments working together to further our goal of cleaner air in the Harbor area.” The LADWP and the Los Angeles Department of Public Works/Bureau of Sanitation agreed to install the fuel cell within the Terminal Island Treatment Plant so that it can operate off biogas produced through the wastewater treatment process. While the fuel cell currently operates with natural gas, LADWP and Bureau of Sanitation plan to develop a gas-processing treatment unit that will clean and process the biogas so that it will be compatible with the requirements of the fuel cell. LADWP expects the fuel cell to be operating on the digester gas by next summer. “When you look at this fuel cell power plant you are really seeing the future of a new generation of energy production that not only provides clean, highly efficient energy but also uses renewable resources,” said David H. Wiggs, LADWP general manager. The Terminal Island Fuel Cell Power Plant is significantly cleaner than the average U.S. fossil fuel power plant. Based on annual usage, each 250 kW fuel cell power plant displaces the following levels of pollutants: 1.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 11,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 25,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide. The Terminal Island Fuel Cell Power Plant, which costs approximately US$2.3 million (including the cost for developing the gas-processing unit), is largely funded through the Department’s Public Benefits Program, which supports the development of renewable energy and energy efficient technology and programs. In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense, with administrative support from the U.S. Department of Energy, provided $250,000 in grant funding. The new fuel cell power plant marks another milestone in LADWP’s program of expanding clean-energy production. In March 2003, LADWP dedicated the 250 kW John Ferraro Building (JFB) Fuel Cell Power Plant at its headquarters. Earlier this year, LADWP kicked off the Pine Tree Wind Project, which will be the largest municipally owned wind plant in the U.S. LADWP is also a key player in a groundbreaking clean air research program, called Alternative Maritime Power, designed to provide a clean energy alternative for ships docking at the Port of Los Angeles. In addition, LADWP is engaged in a long-term initiative to “repower” its in-basin power plants with advanced, emission-reduction technology. Recognizing the many potential benefits of deploying fuel cells in Los Angeles, LADWP has long supported projects to commercialize stationary fuel cells that can be used throughout the City. LADWP’s fuel cell program began in the 1980s with the 40kW City of Industry Demonstration Project. In the 1990s, LADWP participated in the 2-MW Santa Clara Demonstration Project. Currently, LADWP operates a 250-kW fuel cell power plant at its Main Street facility, and the 250 kW JFB Fuel Cell Power Plant at its downtown headquarters. The Terminal Island Fuel Cell will be the City’s first fuel cell power plant to operate off renewable energy.
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