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June 13, 2018

DEEP delivers win for fuel cells

EIP LLC A before and after rendering/photo of a proposed fuel-cell powered data center in New Britain. DEEP selected the project in a competitive RFP.
Bloom This Bloom fuel cell project in North Carolina is a similar size to the project the company has proposed for Colchester.

State officials on Wednesday greenlit four major fuel cell projects, including in Hartford and New Britain, delivering a victory to an industry that has complained recently about a perceived lack of state support.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) announced winning bids in a clean energy development RFP totaling nearly 254 megawatts worth of offshore wind, fuel cells and anaerobic digestion projects. That amounts to about 5 percent of the state’s annual electric load.

Developers submitted more than two dozen  project proposals to the RFP in early April.

The bulk of the winning electricity output, 200 megawatts, would come from the Revolution Wind project off the coast of New London, where state government is investing millions to build up staging facilities that could help the eastern Connecticut economy.

It’s Connecticut’s first procurement of offshore wind.

"This announcement, combined with the state's recent commitment of bond funding to revitalize the State Pier, demonstrates that Connecticut is serious about securing its share of the highly-paid offshore wind jobs," John Humphries, lead organizer of the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, said in a statement Wednesday.

Selected fuel cell projects, totaling about 52 megawatts or 450,000 megawatt hours per year, include:

  • Energy and Innovation Park in New Britain, which would include nearly 20 megawatts worth of South Windsor-based Doosan fuel cells.The project, including a state-of-the-art data center, would be built on a piece of Stanley Black & Decker’s former manufacturing campus. Developers bid the project into a similar proceeding several years ago, but DEEP didn’t select fuel cell projects that year. Mark Wick, a partner with the company developing the project, EIP LLC, called DEEP’s selection “a game-changer in terms of high-tech jobs, high-speed data processing and clean energy…” and “a significant economic development opportunity for both New Britain and the state.” EIP says the fuel-cell project is just the first phase of an envisioned $1 billion project.

  • A 14.8-megawatt FuelCell Energy project in Derby was also greenlit. In advance of DEEP’s selections, FuelCell CEO Chip Bottone publicly expressed concern that the industry would strike out for a second time in the RFP. However, he and others successfully lobbied the legislature to increase the size of the RFP. Bottone provided a quote for DEEP’s press release on Wednesday, saying he was pleased with the result. “Fuel cells are one of the most space-efficient, resilient clean energy technologies qualified under Connecticut Class 1 Renewable Portfolio Standard,” he said. “These projects will provide local tax revenue, high tech manufacturing jobs, economic development benefits, and clean energy resources consistent with the goals of Connecticut’s renewable portfolio.”

  • DEEP also approved a 10-megawatt project in Colchester proposed by Bloom Energy, which would be adjacent to an Eversource substation on Old Amston Road. Bloom says it already has 36 fuel cell projects operating in Connecticut.

  • Finally, DEEP selected a 7.4-megawatt FuelCell Energy project at 441 Homestead Ave. in Hartford.

In addition to the wind and fuel cell projects, DEEP also picked a 1.6-megawatt anaerobic digestion project in Southington proposed by Turning Earth.

“Offshore wind, anaerobic digestion and fuel cells are the clean, resilient, and diverse energy sources that our state and nation need,” DEEP Commissioner Rob Klee said in a statement. “Connecticut is showing the rest of the nation what the future of clean energy looks like.”

Projects’ long-term contracts must still be negotiated with the state’s utilities and go through a regulatory approval process.

If all the fuel cell projects are built, Connecticut will have approximately doubled its fuel cell capacity, to about 100 megawatts. That would be five times more than New York, and nearly half as much as California, and both of those states use far more electricity than Connecticut, DEEP said.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the selections represent investments in the technologies of the future.

“We have an obligation to our children and grandchildren to invest in energy projects that reduce the impacts of harmful emissions,” Malloy said in a statement.

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