New Haven breaks elementary school fuel cell barrier

Sep 23rd, 2010 | By | Category: Fuel Cell

New Haven has become the first school district in CT to install fuel cell at elementary school

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2010, New Haven Public Schools became the first district in the state to install an energy fuel cell at an elementary/middle school. 

The fuel cell is the final piece of the newly constructed Roberto Clemente School which opened its doors earlier this month.  It is also one of the first pieces of the soon to be re-built Hill Central Music Academy. 

The two schools are neighbors and will share the Fuel Cell.  This new-generation 400 kilowatt fuel cell was developed in Connecticut by UTC Power.  The fuel cell will meet nearly all of the building’s electric needs as well as provide thermal energy for space heating, and domestic hot water. 

When the power demand for the two buildings is less, the fuel cell will transfer energy back into the power grid system. The fuel cell will generate electricity independently from the electrical “grid” and therefore will be able to continue to power some areas of the schools even if the electrical power is lost because of a storm or other event.
“This fuel cell represents not only the City’s commitment to a cleaner and greener New Haven but also to making our state-of-the-art schools as innovative, energy efficient and cost effective,” said Mayor DeStefano. “We are proud to be a trailblazer in the state and in the nation in the areas of green building.”
The fuel cell cost is $2.28 million which is funded from the school construction capital account.  The City also received a $500,000 incentive grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund to help pay the cost of the fuel cell.
During the construction planning for both buildings, it was determined that the proximity of the schools to each other presented an opportunity to efficiently serve both schools from a single source Central Utility Plant (CUP). The CUP building houses all of the equipment that will supply heat, cooling and electricity to both the Clemente and Hill Central schools inclusive of the fuel cell.
“This fuel cell installation marks our latest effort to ensure our school buildings are energy efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Superintendent Mayo.  “Since 1996 we have worked to design and construct buildings that meet high performance efficiency and green building guidelines.  We look forward not only to the cost savings this fuel cell will provide the district, but also the opportunity to teach our students about this technology.”
What is a Fuel Cell?
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen fuel (from natural gas) and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. The fuel cell consumes natural gas and produces electricity. This electricity supplements the utility power to the schools. A bi-product of the reaction is heated water; this heated water is used to supplement the heating system for the two schools.  Simply put, fuel cells are a combined heat and electrical power system. 
Are they energy efficient?
A Fuel Cell is an energy efficient, environmentally friendly, renewable energy source. Because fuel cells make energy electrochemically, without burning fuel or the need for combustion; they are pollution free and fundamentally more efficient than conventional combustion systems. A fuel cell will reduce facility energy costs by 20% to 40% compared to conventional energy sources.  It will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions and nitrogen oxide emissions.  In Connecticut, fuel cell power plants are a Class I renewable energy source.
“This project is exciting for UTC Power because it will be the first time our Model 400 fuel cell will power two schools from one location,” said Mike Brown, UTC Power vice president of government affairs and general counsel. “We’re proud to be working with the City of New Haven and the New Haven Board of Education who value the many benefits of clean, on-site fuel cell power. We hope the presence of this fuel cell at the schools will help encourage the scientists and innovators of tomorrow”.
Using a fuel cell for clean energy is only one of numerous initiatives by the New Haven Public Schools in its commitment to making their buildings more energy efficient. In 2006, Barnard Environmental Magnet School became the first LEED certified school in Connecticut achieving GOLD certification from the USGBC.  Barnard was also New Haven’s first LEED certified public building.  They also received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “Designed to Earn the ENERGY STAR” designation for Columbus Family Academy, Bishop Woods, Mauro-Sheridan and Davis Street schools and are pursuing the Energy Star Label through the Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

Not only is Connecticut one of the driving forces behind clean energy, but the technologies used to create power from a fuel cell were first developed in the Nutmeg state. Established in 2000, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) has already funded more than $100 million in clean energy projects. CCEF made a grant in the amount of $500,000 to support the New Haven fuel cell. Having hydrogen-powered, distributed energy is critical to Connecticut’s future, according to the Clean Energy Fund.

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