The Connecticut Science Center's Fuel Cell
On December 4, 2009, the Connecticut Science Center became the first science center or museum in the country to generate the majority of its energy needs on-site with a fuel cell.* The Clearedge Energy fuel cell technology will generate almost 100% of the electricity demanded by the Science Center on an annual basis. During operating hours, the fuel cell provides approximately two-thirds of the needed power for the downtown Hartford destination. When the Science Center’s power demand is less, the 200-kilowatt fuel cell transfers energy back into the power grid system. The cumulative effect will result in almost 100% of the energy used being created by the clean, environmentally-friendly energy source. As an added benefit, the fuel cell will provide back-up power. The fuel cell is wrapped in educational graphics which help to explain the technologies used, thus becoming one of the over 150 exhibits, including an entire exhibit gallery (Energy City) dedicated to emerging energies, at the Science Center.
Fuel cells are among the cleanest energy-generation sources available in the world today and meet the strictest U.S. emissions standards. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical process to produce electricity, heat and water. A hydrogen-rich fuel is derived from natural gas in a non-combustion process called reforming.
By generating clean power on site and then recovering the heat from the electrochemical reaction, the Connecticut Science Center is able to reduce the burden on the New England power grid and its impact on the environment by preventing the release of more than 270 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. The environmental benefit is equivalent to planting 63 acres of forest to mitigate an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. *Source: Fuel Cells 2000, a nonprofit, educational organization based in Washington, D.C., with a database of fuel cell installations worldwide.
Using a fuel cell for clean energy is only one of numerous initiatives of the new Connecticut Science Center in its commitment to minimizing its carbon footprint. The Science Center is anticipating a Gold Level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The USGBC is the premier “Green Building” agency created in 1993 to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life.
“A commitment to the environment and minimizing our carbon footprint is essential for the Connecticut Science Center,” states Matt Fleury, President and CEO of the Science Center. Fleury continues, “Just as important, our educational exhibits and programs show you how their promising new technologies work, and how science plays a part in helping us solve energy and other issues.” Additional environmentally friendly “green” initiatives taken by the Science Center include light sensors which detect natural lighting and adjust interior lighting to save energy; a rooftop garden and over 95% of the steel used to build the Science Center being made from recycled automobiles!
WHAT IS A HYDROGEN FUEL CELL AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
Hydrogen fuel cells are among the cleanest energy-generation sources available in the world today and meet the strictest U.S. emission standards. The use of hydrogen and fuel cells are vital to two of the energy challenges faced in the United States today: reducing carbon dioxide emissions and ending dependence on oil.
Hydrogen can be produced from an abundant and diverse supply of domestic resources such as natural gas (the source used at the Connecticut Science Center). Fuel cells provide a clean and efficient way to use this energy and can potentially revolutionize how we create power in terms of efficiency and reducing pollution. Fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen in an electrochemical process to produce electricity, heat and water. A hydrogen-rich fuel is derived from natural gas in a non-combustion process called reforming. Fuel cells are not only clean, but quiet, making them highly attractive in dense, urban environments.
The fuel cell being used for the Connecticut Science Center was built by Clearedge Energy. Established in 2003, ClearEdge Power has become a world leader in the areas of fuel cell stacks, fuel processing and integrated balance of systems. Additional support has been provided by Connecticut Natural Gas, the supplier of the natural gas needed as the hydrogen source for the fuel cell, the CT Center for Advanced Technology and the CT Energy Efficiency Fund.