Fuel Cell Revolution: A New Kind of Energy

Testing the production of high-quality power from natural gas without burning it.

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Residential fuel cell systems, which generate clean, efficient ­electricity from the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen, will soon be tested in Southern ­California and Chicago.

H Power’s residential fuel cell unit, marketed jointly with Energy Co-Opportunity Inc. (ECO), will make environmentally friendly ­electricity, independent of electric utilities, available to ECO’s Southern California customers.

In Chicago, the Community ­Energy Cooperative (CEC) and ­EPRIsolutions, a subsidiary of the Electric Power Research Institute, are asking several families to assess the technical, economic, and environmental benefits of fuel cell systems in a pilot project. “Fuel cell technology offers the potential for clean, reliable, and environmentally preferred solutions to communities,” says CEC ­general manager Kathryn Tholin.

Fuel cell systems convert natural gas fuel directly into high-quality power. Instead of burning the fuel, the cells extract energy through a chemical reaction, joining hydrogen from the fuel with oxygen from the air to produce water and releasing electrical energy in the process. Excess heat from the fuel cell can also be used to heat water or provide space heating. The furnace-size units, which can produce three to seven kilowatts of electricity, can become a practical reality within two years, according to Dan Rastler, EPRIsolutions area manager for ­distributed resources.

To learn more about fuel cells, visit http://www.motherearthnews.com/Green-Transportation.aspx