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  • 2010-12-07 17:00:00
  • Article ID: 571577

UC San Diego Installing 2.8 Megawatt Fuel Cell to Anchor Energy Innovation Park

Rex Graham, 858-534-2248, or ragraham@ucsd.edu

Construction of a fuel cell with enough capacity to power 2,800 homes has begun on the UC San Diego campus as part of a renewable-energy project with the City of San Diego and BioFuels Energy to turn waste methane gas from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant directly into electricity without combustion.

When completed in late 2011, the 2.8-megawatt fuel cell will be the largest on any college campus, providing about 8 percent of UC San Diego’s total energy needs. The $19 million project requires no university funding: the project is eligible for $7.65 million in State of California Self Generation Program incentives, and BioFuels Energy will provide the remaining $11.35 million in private investment, loans, and investment tax credits.

“Our campus currently generates 85 percent of its own power. With this new fuel cell and the near-doubling of our photovoltaic solar capacity in 2011, our campus will be able to meet as much as 95 percent of our annual electricity needs,” said Gary C. Matthews, vice chancellor of Resource Management and Planning. “The fact that we’ve been able to significantly increase our renewable-energy capacity in very challenging economic times with an innovative public-private partnership is as much a financial feat as it is an engineering accomplishment.”

As part of a 10-year agreement, UC San Diego will buy the electricity produced by the fuel cell from BioFuels Energy at competitive rates. The university’s fuel cell also offers the potential benefits of cogeneration, or combined heat and power, in which waste heat can be tapped as a secondary power source, raising the overall net efficiency of the fuel cell to about 60 percent, compared to about 33 percent for coal- and oil-fired power plants.

About 85 percent of the university’s energy needs are provided by its low-emission 30-megawatt natural-gas-fired cogeneration plant, which operates at 66 percent overall net efficiency. It is also called a combined heat and power plant because it generates electricity to run lights and equipment and also captures the plant’s waste heat to produce steam for heating, ventilation and air conditioning for much of the 12.5 million gross square feet of campus buildings. Waste heat from the plant also is used as a power source for a water chiller that fills a 3.8-million-gallon storage tank at night with cold water, which allows the university to reduce its peak daytime energy requirements by about 14 percent.

The fuel cell and its ancillary equipment will occupy a space about the size of a tennis court. It will form the centerpiece of UC San Diego’s Energy Innovation Park on the east side of the main campus, which includes:

* High efficiency, 5.75-kilowatt sun-tracking concentrating photovoltaic array made by Concentrix Solar.

* A compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station for 13 CNG service vehicles, including two delivery trucks and two street sweepers, three sedans, three pick-up trucks and three buses. Vehicle emissions are lower with natural gas fuel than with gasoline because CNG-fueled vehicles emit 10 percent less carbon dioxide compared to diesel and 30-40 percent less than equivalent gasoline-fueled vehicles.

* A chiller plant that efficiently produces the cold water required to cool the nearby Moores UCSD Cancer Center and Shiley Eye Center.

In the future the energy park will have an array of additional technologies:

* An electric-vehicle charging station.

* A second chiller plant with 300 kilowatts of cooling capacity that will be powered by the fuel cell’s waste heat to cool the Cancer Center, Shiley Eye Center and other UC San Diego medical treatment, research and office buildings nearby.

* An energy-storage system that will stockpile four hours’ output of electricity from the fuel cell every night during off-peak hours and release the electricity to the campus energy grid during peak-demand hours in the afternoon.

The planned energy-storage system is eligible for an additional $3.4 million in State of California Self Generation Program incentives and could reduce UC San Diego’s peak energy demand by 6 percent.

“The university’s increasingly sophisticated microgrid will integrate all the campus’ production, consumption and stored power and cooling water into one of the most sophisticated energy-management systems anywhere,” said John Dilliott, energy and utilities manager for the campus. “We will soon be able to factor in the variable cost of imported electricity and optimize the production and consumption of electricity in our entire system with a high degree of cost and energy efficiency.”

The city of San Diego will make money by selling the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant’s biogas, which is purified on site and injected into an existing gas pipeline that will supply three fuel cells being constructed, one at UC San Diego and two at City of San Diego sites. “This project and the uniqueness of the concept is anticipated to pave the way for similar future applications,” said Frank Mazanec, managing director of BioFuels Energy.

The three fuel cells are made by Danbury, Conn.-based FuelCell Energy, Inc. and use an electrochemical process to combine the methane fuel with oxygen in ambient air to produce electricity directly. Carbon dioxide and water vapor are also produced, but no nitrate or particulate pollutants are produced because there is no combustion.

The so-called directed biogas project is the first time that a FuelCell Energy power plant will be fueled by renewable biogas generated at a distant location.

The fuel cell being built at UC San Diego is one of the largest fuel cells in the nation to use directed biogas from a wastewater treatment plant,” said Kenneth J. Frisbie, managing director of the Encinitas, Calif.-based BioFuels Energy No university has a fuel cell this big.

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Rutgers Scientists Discover 'Legos of Life'

Rutgers scientists have found the "Legos of life" - four core chemical structures that can be stacked together to build the myriad proteins inside every organism - after smashing and dissecting nearly 10,000 proteins to understand their component parts. The four building blocks make energy available for humans and all other living organisms, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Small Hydroelectric Dams Increase Globally with Little Research, Regulations

University of Washington researchers have published the first major assessment of small hydropower dams around the world -- including their potential for growth -- and highlight the incredibly variability in how dams of varying sizes are categorized, regulated and studied.

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A team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has uncovered how certain soil microbes cope in a phosphorus-poor environment to survive in a tropical ecosystem. Their novel approach could be applied in other ecosystems to study various nutrient limitations and inform agriculture and terrestrial biosphere modeling.

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Researchers at Berkeley Lab discovered that a form of perovskite, one of the hottest materials in solar research due to its high conversion efficiency, works surprisingly well as a stable and photoactive semiconductor material that can be reversibly switched between a transparent state and a non-transparent state, without degrading its electronic properties.

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New research from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and Stanford University has found that palladium nanoparticles can repair atomic dislocations in their crystal structure, potentially leading to other advances in material science.

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Theoretical Physicist Elena Belova Named to Editorial Board of Physics of Plasmas

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Superconducting X-Ray Laser Takes Shape in Silicon Valley

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Kelsey Stoerzinger Earns Young Investigator Lectureship

Kelsey Stoerzinger, Pauling Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is one of the 2018 Caltech Young Investigator Lecturers in Engineering and Applied Physics.

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DOE Announces Funding for New HPC4Manufacturing Industry Projects

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DOE Announces First Awardees for New HPC4Materials for Severe Environments Program

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Two Argonne Scientists Recognized for a Decade of Breakthroughs

Two scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have been named to the Web of Science's Highly Cited List of 2017, ranking in the top 1 percent of their peers by citations and subject area. Materials Scientist Khalil Amine and Energy and Environmental Policy Scientist David Streets say they are thrilled to see their work -- and the laboratory -- recognized in such a way.

Argonne Welcomes Department of Energy Secretary Perry

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Argonne National Laboratory yesterday, getting a first-hand view of the multifaceted and interdisciplinary research program laboratory of the Department.

Argonne names John Quintana Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and COO

John Quintana has been named Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

Developing Next-Generation Sensing Technologies

Recently, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $20 million in funding for 15 projects that will develop a new class of sensor systems to enable significant energy savings via reduced demand for heating and cooling in residential and commercial buildings.


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Exploring Past, Present, and Future Water Availability Regionally, Globally

New open-source software simulates river and runoff resources.

Arctic Photosynthetic Capacity and Carbon Dioxide Assimilation Underestimated by Terrestrial Biosphere Models

New measurements offer data vital to projecting plant response to environmental changes.

DRIFTing to Fast, Precise Data

Non-destructive technique identifies key variations in Alaskan soils, quickly providing insights into carbon levels.

Superconducting Tokamaks Are Standing Tall

Plasma physicists significantly improve the vertical stability of a Korean fusion device.

Graphene Flexes Its Muscle

Crumpling reduces rigidity in an otherwise stiff material, making it less prone to catastrophic failure.

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New approach offers data across species, sites, and canopies, providing insights into carbon uptake by forests.

What's the Noise Eating Quantum Bits?

The magnetic noise caused by adsorbed oxygen molecules is "eating at" the phase stability of quantum bits, mitigating the noise is vital for future quantum computers.

Rewritable Wires Could Mean No More Obsolete Circuitry

An electric field switches the conductivity on and off in atomic-scale channels, which could allow for upgrades at will.

Filtering Water Better than Nature

Water passes through human-made straws faster than the "gold standard" protein, allowing us to filter seawater.

Machine Learning Provides a Bridge to the Texture of the Quantum World

Machine learning and neural networks are the foundation of artificial intelligence and image recognition, but now they offer a bridge to see and recognize exotic insulating phases in quantum materials.


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