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Calif.'s largest biogas-powered fuel cell comes on line

By Anna Simet | October 22, 2012

Believed by its developers to be the largest of its kind in California and the world, a 2.8 MW, biogas-powered fuel cell recently came on line at a California wastewater treatment plant.

San Bernardino County, Calif., municipal water district Inland Empire Utility Agency’s RP-1 Water Recycling Facility can treat up to 44 million gallons of wastewater per day, and will offset about 60 percent of its grid-derived power as a result of the fuel cell’s operation. IEUA has a goal of being off the grid through utilization of onsite energy by 2020 and already has solar and wind installations.

Anergia Inc. of Ontario, Canada, owns and operates the fuel cell, and is selling the resulting electricity and heat to IEUA under a 20-year power purchase agreement. The technology provider was Danbury, Conn.-based FuelCell Energy Inc.

FuelCell Energy says its Direct FuelCell plants can be located where biogas is generated and used directly; only minimal cleaning of the gas is required.  Prior to being used as a fuel source for the Direct FuelCell, the humidity and sulfur are removed, but the DFC technology does not require the removal of carbon dioxide. FuelCell touts this as a cost advantage, as pipeline-quality or directed biogas must have carbon dioxide removed prior to being injected in the gas pipeline, which adds cost.

The project at IEUA hosts FuelCell Energy’s largest system size, the DFC3000, which the company says is also ideal for hospitals, universities, large complexes and utility grid support applications.