Cogeneration Fuel Cell

First installed in April, 2012, and commisioning completed in October 2013, the San Bernardino campus is now home to a 1.4 MW Direct FuelCell® (DFC)1500 cogeneration power plant!

December 2012 Update

What is a fuel cell?

In a nutshell, a fuel cell uses hydrogen from a methane fuel source and the oxygen from air to produce electricity, heat, and water. Once the process starts up, its elegant design recycles energy to keep it going.

This power plant currently uses natural gas piped from the local utility as its fuel source, but it could substitute biofuels (gases from food processing and wastewater treatment) in the future, or be modified to utilize plant-based fuels such as ethanol, further reducing our dependancy on finite and more costly resources.

What about pollution to our local air – is it clean?

Yes! Only negligible NOx and SOx are produced through this process, and its CO2 emissions are much lower than combustion of coal or natural gas.

But is it as efficient as the large generation plants?

It’s more efficient! The electric conversion efficiency of a fuel cell is 47% to 80%, compared to only 25%-35% for a turbine/engine system.

Learn more from the manufacturer’s white paper and product information brochure.

What are the costs/benefits to the campus and tax payers?

This plant is owned and maintained by Southern California Edison to produce electricity 24/7 to the local power grid. This is a demonstration site to trial new technologies for local energy sources that provide clean, more efficient, and a less vulnerable and costly infrastructure to maintain.

By locating the fuel cell adjacent to the San Bernardino central plant, the university is able to utilize its by-products at no cost. Waste heat from the fuel cell process supplements baseload campus heating and hot water needs and significantly reduces related fossil fuel combustion.

They’re here! Crack of dawn on December 23rd, but feels like Christmas already. Wait, there’s more. Craning in the mechanical balance skid of the fuel cell plant which includes the warm-up heater that brings fuel cell up to temperature on initial start-up only. Setting the mechanical balance skid on its designated pad. Still morning and mechanical balance section of the plant is in place. Next comes the electrical balance of the plant that converts the generated electrons into useable electricity. And now for the fuel cell itself. Drum roll please!… The fuel cell is being anchored and its not even lunchtime. Electrical pad ready for SCE’s transformer and switchbox to be installed. Power plant completed, awaiting interconnection to the grid. Connection to the local electricity grid is completed in October and commissioning begins November 2012. Commisioning finalized in October 2013. CSUSB Chief Engineer and Energy Manager, Phil Westbrook, at ribbon cutting ceremony November 8, 2013.