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New Fuel Cell for CCSU

by Kassondra Granata

The University, hosting the largest fuel cell project in New England, is beginning a new system that will increase CCSU’s sustainability and set us apart from the other state universities.

“It kind of fell on our lap over the past year and we just went with it,” said Rob Gagne, Plant Facilities Engineer at a press conference Thursday. “This is going to be a very big score for us.”

The goal is to have the project done by the end of December, and so far, it is running smoothly. With an estimated 6 months to complete the project, the workers from the FuelCell Energy will have it completed in 8 weeks.

“The professionalism they threw out here is great,” said Gagne. “It’s great to see how everything is coming together.”

CCSU will be buying energy from the company, based out of Danbury, and will be able to reduce the amount of energy purchased.

It is estimated that there will be around $100,000 in savings a year and the system will reduce energy by 1.4 megawatts.

“What this is going to do for us it is going to generate 1.4 megawatts of power. On a typical day, we’re using 4 megawatts,” said Gagne. “It’s a considerable amount. Based on an annual basis, the waste heat and the water we’re going to use, there are savings for the university.”

Mark McLaughlin, Associate Vice President of Marketing & Communications held the press conference in his office.

“This is going to be one of the critical things that the university does in terms of sustainability,” McLaughlin said. “There is a lot that the university does that other universities don’t do in terms of sustainability efforts.”

In the fuel cell system, there will be three portions: the mechanical balance, the electrical balance and the fuel cell module.

The city water from East Hall will be deionized and  transferred into a heat recovery unit with natural gas, which will go through a tank that will remove the sulfur to purify the gas. Natural gas companies add sulfur to the gas for safety reasons.

While water is going into a humidifier, the natural gas will be chemically combined and the waste heat from the fuel cell module will create steam that will humidify the natural gas.

The natural gas will then go into the fuel cell module and air will go into the side of the module and create DC power, making it a big battery.

DC power will go through the liquid cooler where it will be converted into AC power.

The AC power will go into a step up transformer that will create 480 volts and then transfer it into a switch gear that will increase it to 4,160 volts.

Those 4,160 volts will then be transported by a cable system and will then be electrically distributed throughout the campus.

“We are constantly looking at how we can save money and improve our energy systems,” said Gagne. “We have a lot more control on how we can maintain our time clocks as renovations happen.”

The whole process of the project, once it is completed, will be monitored 24/7 by FuelCell Energy.

Gagne is very excited about the project and he and his team continue to look into more projects.

“It puts us on the map and makes us look really good. Everyone working on this knows the importance of renewable energy and how we need to get on board,” said Gagne. “Anytime we can get saving and we can reduce our greenhouse gases, it’s exciting to all of us professionals that work in the field.”

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