Energy

Natural-Gas Powered Fuel Cells to Provide Clean, Reliable Power for 500 WV Homes

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MOUNT PLEASANT, Pa., July 13, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — WATT Fuel Cell (“WATT”) announced that it will supply 500 residential Imperium® Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (“SOFC”) to Hope Gas, Inc., a West Virginia-based natural gas utility. The natural-gas-powered fuel cells, which operate in parallel with the commercial power grid, are sized to provide a typical home with quiet, pollution-free electric power. The new fuel cells will be offered to residential customers of Hope Gas, which serves more than 112,000 customers in 35 West Virginia counties.

WATT Fuel Cell’s technology is simple, highly efficient, and reliable: fuel and air are directly converted to electric power through an electrochemical process. But, instead of relying only on pure hydrogen for fuel, WATT’s Imperium® SOFC systems generate electric power by drawing hydrogen molecules from readily available natural gas. This remarkable power-generation process requires no combustion and is almost emission free.

Ensuring reliable on-site power is vital in West Virginia, as the state has one of the least reliable electric services in the United States, causing outages to occur at four or five times the national average. The state’s power generation plants aren’t the problem; it’s the distribution grid. Reliability problems are the greatest in rural and mountainous areas, where dense forests play havoc with vulnerable power lines and limit accessibility for line maintenance.

For customers facing these power problems, the new 1.5-kilowatt (“kW”) fuel cells, offered and installed by Hope Gas, can provide a clean and reliable answer. “A typical home consumes about 1.2 kW of power on a daily average, with demand increasing or decreasing based on the use of HVAC, electronics, or appliances,” explains Caine Finnerty, founder and CEO of WATT. “The WATT Imperium fuel cell has a 1.5 kW capacity and is designed to operate continuously in the consumer’s home, generating on-site power sufficient for most needs.”

Finnerty explains that the fuel cell runs “in parallel” with the electrical grid. That means if home power demand increases beyond the fuel cell’s 1.5 kW capacity, the home will draw additional power from the electrical grid. In the event that the grid is out, the power capacity of the fuel cell remains secure and the customer is never “out” of power due to a grid interruption.

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As concerns about energy access and grid reliability increase, Finnerty adds that, “our partnership with Hope Gas is bringing a resilient, cleaner power generation technology to West Virginia homeowners.” He points to statistics showing that power generated by fuel cells is, unit for unit, at least 50 percent cleaner (in terms of emissions) than power provided by the grid: “WATT’s completely catalytic system eliminates NOx and SOx, hydrocarbon slip, and particulates.”

“By leveraging West Virginia’s vast natural gas resources and advanced fuel-cell technology, we can create tremendous value for Hope’s customers, employees, and stakeholders,” says Morgan O’Brien, Hope Gas’s president and CEO. “Our vision is to expand the footprint within the state, including to underserved communities. Ultimately, this innovation will help us create new family-sustaining jobs and bring additional jobs into the state in year one,” he added.

Customers who adopt fuel-cell power units will enjoy immediate benefits, including energy security when storms or grid problems disrupt residential power. Wider adoption of the new power-generation technology will also help in the state’s energy transition away from coal by positioning the region as a fuel-cell “hub” and helping it to secure funding from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“A cleaner, hydrogen-based energy future is gaining momentum, and WATT’s fuel-flexible units can adapt to that future,” says Finnerty. “Today, our technology is poised to play a key role in forging a full spectrum of solutions to support energy transition expectations. Innovation and technology like ours will be vital to delivering on the world’s growing demand for energy, while also ensuring our economic and environmental needs are aligned.” 

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