A utility in New York state will connect 75 fuel cells to its grid this summer to show how the technology may generate electricity for residential customers.WEST BABYLON, New York, US, 2001-07-05 [SolarAccess.com] The Long Island Power Authority will use a $7 million program to install the fuel cells at its West Babylon substation. The program will identify and develop the measures and systems needed to facilitate the use of fuel cells which operate in parallel with the grid and contribute to overall reliability and performance. Construction is expected to start next month and the program will be the first large-scale use of fuel cells for this purpose in the state. The units are being manufactured by Plug Power of Latham, and will produce more than one million kilowatt hours of electricity during the program, which is sufficient for 100 homes. “Fuel cells hold great promise, as an environmentally friendly electric generating technology,” says LIPA chairman Richard Kessel. “We need to develop an understanding of how fuel cells can be integrated with our electric grid, and that’s what the project will help identify. In turn, the information and experience gained through this program will help fuel cells continue to evolve as a technology that can be employed by electric utilities as a source of power, and by residential and commercial customers for their own on-site power needs.” The program is funded through LIPA’s Clean Energy Initiative, a five-year $170 million program proposed by New York Governor George Pataki that is designed to promote solar, wind, geothermal and other clean energy technologies. The CEI program offers eleven conservation and load management programs for residential and commercial customers. “Fuel cells are great for the environment since they don’t emit harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury or particulates,” explains Ashoke Gupta of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We hope to see a lot of this in the coming years.” Under an earlier LIPA program, seven fuel cells from Plug Power were field tested at locations around Long Island last year to gain operational experience for the development of the current generation of fuel cell power systems. “The exciting aspects of fuel cells are that they are a clean, efficient energy technology that can be tied into the existing power grid,” explains Neal Lewis of the L.I. Neighborhood Network. “Long Island has history as a leader and an innovator on environmental issues.” The agreement between LIPA and Plug Power includes provision for training, engineering services and technical support to operate and maintain the units. The two parties will develop the software necessary for remote operation, dispatch and monitoring of the fuel cells to support the future distributed use of fuel cells to support the electric grid. Demand for electricity in Long Island is growing at an annual rate of 3.5 percent, twice the average in the state. LIPA owns the retail electric system on Long Island, and provides electric service to 1.1 million customers. Plug Power develops proton exchange membrane fuel cells for stationary applications. The Latham company was formed in 1997 as a joint venture of DTE Energy and Mechanical Technology, and has a subsidiary in Holland. Its fuel cell systems for residential and small stationary commercial applications are expected to be sold around the world through a joint venture with General Electric.