The DFC1500 power plant will generate 1.4 megawatts of ultra-clean electricity and its byproduct heat will be recovered and used to replace approximately half the natural gas the County currently purchases to make hot water for space heating, cleaning, and cooking. Overall, the County of Sonoma expects significant energy cost savings during the first year of operation.
When operating in a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) mode such as this, DFC power plants can achieve up to 80 percent efficiency. This high efficiency will substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
By comparison, typical grid electricity is only 33 percent electrically efficient. In addition, since DFC power plants produce electricity without combustion, they produce near-zero nitrous oxides, sulfur oxides and particulate matter, and are one of the most effective means of meeting air quality standards with around-the-clock electric generation.
The state of California is one of the country's leading environmental advocates with over 75 different laws and incentive programs to further the use of clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas production. These include AB32 that caps carbon dioxide emissions; the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring 33 percent clean energy generation by 2020; and its government office building initiative to reduce energy use by 20 percent (1,935 megawatts) by 2015 from a 2003 baseline. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board's CARB07 strictly regulates distributed generation power plants, specifying limits for nitrous oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. DFC fuel cells meet all of these limits.
"Installing a DFC fuel cell power plant is not only a wise financial decision," said Jose Obregon, head of Sonoma County's General Service Department. "It also demonstrates we're being responsible stewards of the environment by dramatically lessening the impact of County operations on our community. No distributed power generation alternative we evaluated was able to compete with its high efficiency combined with its environmentally responsible benefits."
Sonoma County considered numerous options before deciding that the DFC unit was the best solution for its needs. The fuel cell installation is a major component of the $22 million Comprehensive Energy Project to make Sonoma County buildings energy efficient, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and meet the reduction targets established in the County's Climate Protection Action Plan.
"Our DFC power plants are efficient, quiet, clean and easy to site," said Bruce Ludemann, Senior Vice President of FuelCell Energy. "And because they operate 24/7 producing ultra-clean baseload power, they're an ideal solution when keeping the power on is critical and for customers that want to reduce their carbon footprint like jails, government buildings, hospitals, hotels, and wastewater treatment facilities."
Sonoma County's purchase of the DFC unit through its site contractor AirCon Energy was partially funded with a $3 million grant under California's Self-Generation Incentive Program administered by Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Aircon Energy has been specializing in the design, engineering and installation of comprehensive energy solutions since 1974 with a focus on local governments in the state of California. The DFC power plant is scheduled to be in operation in spring of 2010.