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World's First Tri-Generation Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Station Commissioned in Orange County

August 18, 2011

The fuel cell commissioned on August 16 is a combined heat, hydrogen, and power system that co-produces hydrogen in addition to electricity and heat, making it a tri-generation system. The station provides transportation fuel to the public and electric power to an industrial facility, located at the Orange County Sanitation District's wastewater treatment plant in Fountain Valley, California.

The hydrogen produced by the system is sent to a hydrogen fueling station that will be open to the public and can support between 25 and 50 fuel cell electric vehicle fill-ups per day. The fuel cell also produces approximately 250 kW of power for use by the wastewater treatment plant. This on-site approach to hydrogen production advances hydrogen infrastructure technologies that will accelerate the use of this renewable fuel.

"Innovations like this demonstrate how American ingenuity and targeted investment can accelerate breakthroughs in the hydrogen and fuel cell industry while driving the clean energy economy forward," said DOE's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Renewable Energy Steve Chalk. "By providing the added value of electricity and heat, this approach provides a significant step in overcoming economic challenges with hydrogen refueling infrastructure."

Background Information
The Fountain Valley tri-generation fuel cell and hydrogen energy station uses biogas from the municipal wastewater treatment plant as the fuel for a fuel cell. The system is integrated with a hydrogen purification system to recover approximately 100 kg of hydrogen per day. The project was developed as a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, California Air Resources Board, the Orange County Sanitation District, and private industry. The project is managed by Air Products and additional partners include FuelCell Energy, Inc. and the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine. 

The Fountain Valley fuel cell system could offer a pathway to low-cost hydrogen and also demonstrates the versatility of fuel cells to utilize multiple feedstocks, such as biogas and natural gas, to produce power and renewable hydrogen that can be used to fuel light-duty vehicles such as forklifts or as backup power in applications such as cell phone towers. Primarily running on biogas, the system can also use natural gas to sustain a consistent feedstock in the case of any disruption in biogas availability or quality.