Fuel cell presentation being held today


Businesses and homeowners looking to get off the grid and install fuel-cell electricity systems can attend a presentation Monday by Oregon-based ClearEdge Power at the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

Though fuel cells have been in use since man first went to the moon, the technology is just now coming into its own.

Bloom Energy of Silicon Valley made a big splash two weeks ago on “60 Minutes” when it showed off its self-contained, 100-kilowatt units capable powering up to 65 homes. The units cost about $700,000 each, but Bloom is working to push down prices.

“There isn’t another technology that can do this, produce power at this high efficiency at this low emissions at that small a scale” UC Irvine fuel-cell researcher Jack Brouwer told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Fuel cells at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina have powered lights, televisions, hot showers and heated pools for nearly five years.

“We can run almost all of our power with the fuel cells,” Dave Prost, who in charge of the system, told the newspaper.

Heat, a byproduct of making electricity with fuel cells, is used to warm a pool and make hot water, he said.

Camp Pendleton has a 500-kilowatt system, according to San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

The city of San Diego and UC San Diego, which are cooperating on a fuel-cell project, plan to trap methane that is now being burned off at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, The Union-Tribune reported. The system is expected to produce about 4.5 megawatts, and any excess gas would be pumped into SDG&E’s natural gas pipelines.

One company targeting small businesses and residential users is ClearEdge Power of Oregon, which began selling a cell small enough for a large home or a small business in November.

The 5-kilowatt units, with incentives and rebates, would set a buyer back about $50,000, the Union-Tribune reported.

Company spokesman Mike Upp told the newspaper the target buyer would be someone who could use that much electricity and the excess heat for a pool or spa, or make hot water.

“It’s really somebody with a house of 4,000 square feet or above, or a small business like a boutique hotel or restaurant, a spa or a health club,” Upp said.

ClearEdge will pitch its systems for businesses at 1 p.m. and for homeowners at 6 p.m. at the Center for Sustainable Energy in Kearny Mesa.