By Matt Nauman
HAYWARD – The fuel-cell power plant that was dedicated Friday (Oct. 14) on the campus of Cal State-East Bay provides electricity and much more.
The 1.4-megawatt power plant will provide the grid with enough electricity for 1,400 homes.
The heat produced by the plant will be used to heat some buildings and two swimming pools on the university’s campus, with a project energy savings of $160,000 a year.
And a multitude of students, including those studying engineering, business and other subjects, will get to use the facility as a learning lab.
“This project provides a real-life example of sustainability,” said Leroy Morishita, the interim president of Cal State-East Bay. “It is an ultra-clean, low-emission power plant.”
Fuel cells are clean, quiet sources of energy. They convert hydrogen from a fuel – natural gas in the case of the one in use in Hayward – and oxygen from the air into electricity. These stationary facilities operate 24 hours a day. Since the natural gas isn’t combusted, fuel cells produce almost no harmful nitrogen oxides or particulates. And the one in Hayward also generates heat that will be used on campus.
PG&E owns and operates the fuel-cell power plant on the CSU campus. FuelCell Energy, of Danbury, Conn., manufactured the fuel cell. The project was approved by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and will help demonstrate and advance the technology.
(PG&E also has a 1.6-megawatt fuel-cell power plant in operation on the campus of San Francisco State University.)
CPUC Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon, who spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, remarked about the need for natural gas. “This is a great story that complements our Renewables Portfolio Standard, complements AB 32,” he said, noting the cleanliness and availability of natural gas.
“PG&E is very, very excited about this project,” said Tom Guarino, a PG&E government-relations manager for the East Bay. Besides operating the fuel cell, PG&E is working with Calpine as it builds the 600-megawatt Russell City Energy Center, a natural gas-burning power plant that’s also in Hayward.
State Sen. Ellen Corbett, a graduate of the school, also spoke at the event.
Saeid Motavalli, a professor and chairman of the CSU-EB engineering department, spoke glowingly about the importance of the new facility on campus.
“We can use this as a working laboratory,” he said, where students can study the power grid, the impact of engineering on the environment, efficient power generation and other topics.
“I’m sure a lot of students will benefit from this and I’m glad we’re one of the few places to have one,” Motavalli said.
A few students were on hand for the event, and so was Dave Bergman. Bergman, who just retired from PG&E, was the project manager for the Hayward fuel-cell project, and he beamed like a proud father as he and Bob Holsinger, a superintendent in PG&E’s renewables generation department, gave a tour of the facility.
A neat feature of the fuel-cell plant is a touch-screen information kiosk right outside the fence. Besides offering a detailed description of what a fuel cell is and how it works, it will eventually be able to show how much power has been generated by the facility.