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Fuel cell saves money, supports ‘real life’ sustainable learning at Cal State East Bay


Students from Assistant Professor Erik Helgren's "Science of Energy" physics class don safety gear to visit the fuel cell on CSUEB's Hayward Campus. (Photo: Jesse Cantley)

  • March 23, 2012

Cal State East Bay is one of the first universities in Northern California to become the site of a fully operational fuel cell. The university and Pacific Gas and Electric Company dedicated it recently on the Hayward Campus.

In celebrating the fuel cell’s addition to the campus, CSUEB President Leroy Morishita said that the university prides itself on “being a leading proponent of sustainable development and green energy.”

“This project provides a real life example of sustainable energy that will be integrated into several degree programs for students interested in careers in green energy,” Morishita said. “The University will be a demonstration site for this new technology to the public as well as provide our faculty the opportunity to use the fuel cell in our instruction and research programs in a variety of disciplines.”

The fuel cell generates 1.4 megawatts of power, enough to provide electricity for about 1,400 homes. It also serves as a
research and learning tool for students and faculty members of Cal State East Bay, while the waste heat generated by
the fuel cell can be converted into hot water to be used in campus buildings.

In addition, the fuel cell's waste heat can be used to provide hot water for Cal State East Bay that saves the university between $10,000 and $12,000 per month, according to Jim Zavagno, CSUEB's director of design and construction.

Ellen Corbett, majority leader of the State Senate, was on hand with other dignitaries to applaud the installation and operation of the $7 million fuel cell, paid for by PG&E and approved in spring 2010 by the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

“I’m happy to be here and celebrating this amazing technology,” said Corbett, a graduate of Cal State East Bay whose senate district includes the city of Hayward. “It’s important to have something like this on a campus so we can continue to teach (students) this kind of technology.”

Timothy Alan Simon, a PUC commissioner, called the fuel cell a “wonderful exhibit of American innovation and technology,” adding that the project would benefit not only the local area, but also help keep energy rates competitive.

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