Fuel cell backup solution to be fuelled by renewable hydrogen

fuel

GenCell Energy, a leading Israel-based manufacturer of fuel cell energy solutions, has announced that Douglas PUD, the Douglas County Public Utility District located in East Wenatchee, Washington, will deploy the GenCell resilient, zero-emission G5 utility backup power solution to provide the utility with a failsafe, green, long-duration and weather-resistant auxiliary power supply system to run on renewable hydrogen produced by the PUD’s own 100 per cent renewable hydrogen production facility.

A not-for-profit public utility which has a long history of generating clean, renewable electricity from the Wells Hydroelectric Project, a unique hydro-combine providing capacity of 840MW from Wells Dam, Douglas County PUD provides the community with reliable service at low rates, while meeting its commitment to prudent and effective environmental stewardship to protect and preserve the Wells Dam watershed.

Aiming to increase the availability and reduce the price of renewable green hydrogen, Douglas PUD elected to use excess electricity to make and sell renewable hydrogen gas which can be used for consumer and industrial purposes, including the operation of the GenCell backup power solution.

In March 2021, Douglas PUD initiated construction of a substation and a 5MW renewable hydrogen production facility pilot project which will be able to produce up to 2 tons of hydrogen per day that will be used to pilot hydrogen cars in the PUD fleet, supply fuel stations in the region and sell hydrogen to industrial users. One user will be the substation itself; to minimize the impact of costly and disruptive power outages, the substation will incorporate the 130vdc GenCell G5 backup solution based on alkaline fuel cells to supplement legacy backup battery systems. The G5 extends the duration of the batteries from 6-8 hours to last as long as fuel is available, thus ensuring that circuit breaker auto-reclosers remain operational until grid recovery.

Looking for a proven and highly resilient backup solution that could supply utility-scale fuel cell functionality and comply with all the strictest IEC, ISO, IEEE and OSHA safety and quality certifications for utilities, after considering other solutions Douglas PUD determined that GenCell was able to meet all of its specifications.  Moreover, the PUD sought a solution that would optimally integrate with the pressurized hydrogen tank infrastructure and efficiently source the hydrogen fuel directly from the on-premises storage device that will pipe the hydrogen to the fuel cell, enabling the PUD to be a direct consumer of the renewable hydrogen it will produce.

GenCell’s engineering team will install the G5 at the substation site and handover the unit to the Douglas PUD team who will independently manage the system’s relatively low maintenance and service requirements.  In tandem the team will deploy the GenCell IoT Remote Manager software to monitor the mission-critical equipment, maximizing system readiness for any emergency and optimizing solution performance.

Gary Ivory, General Manager, Douglas PUD, said. “Douglas PUD has always been an innovator in the utility industry. As the state looks toward low and zero emission technologies, our customer-owners want their local PUD to be prepared for the future. Part of that preparation includes the ultra-reliable, weather-resistant GenCell G5 electrochemical generator that leverages innovative alkaline fuel cell technology to run on our renewable hydrogen for substation back-up power.”

Rami Reshef, CEO GenCell Energy, said. “We are extremely excited to be a part of this landmark project and to work with Douglas PUD to scale up the U.S. hydrogen economy. When climate conditions are causing utilities across the United States to invest in hardening the grid and increase the resiliency of their backup systems to better protect the lives and property of their customers, in many cases blatantly violating their environmental objectives with short-sighted investments in diesel standby generators, we are very proud to supply Douglas PUD with failsafe backup power solutions that are fully aligned with their sustainability goals and that indeed enable them to consume the renewable hydrogen they themselves produce on-site, ensuring lowest possible emissions, highest reliability and maximum energy and cost efficiency.”

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