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New San Diego Albertsons Using UTC Power Fuel Cell for Nearly 90% of its Electricity

4 September 2010

A new Albertsons supermarket in the San Diego, California community of Clairemont is generating nearly 90% of the electricity it needs with a PureCell 400 kW fuel cell from UTC Power, a United Technologies Corp.

The PureCell 400 system uses a Fuel Processor (reformer) to reform natural gas to hydrogen to feed the Fuel Cell Stack.

The project is estimated to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 478 metric tons each year compared to California non-baseload powerplants. The annual nitrogen oxide emissions reduction is equal to removing 82 cars from the roadways per year.

Byproduct heat from the fuel cell process will be captured and used to warm water used in the store, heat the store when necessary and to power a chiller to help cool the refrigerated food, resulting in an overall energy efficiency of approximately 60%, nearly twice the efficiency of the US electrical grid, UTC Power said.

Other environmentally focused amenities situated throughout the Albertsons Clairemont store include:

  • Highly efficient LED lighting in the dairy and frozen food doors that reduce energy consumption by more than 50 to 65%.
  • Photo sensors in 33 skylights measure the amount of day light from the outdoor sky and adjust the electric light levels accordingly, saving energy.
  • Night curtains that are pulled over all open cold cases in the evening to seal in the cool air, and reduce spoilage and energy costs by up to 25%.
  • Water-saving faucets and fixtures installed in the restrooms to reduce the amount of water used by more than 45%.

Whole Foods Market is also a supermarket customer of UTC Power, with three stores now equipped with stationary fuel cell power systems.

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Intelligent owner/owners. Multiplied by 1,000,000 places or so, a few hundred polluting coal fired power plants could be phased out in favor of those very efficient (NG via FC) cleaner power plants. Also, the many easy ways used to reduce energy consumption is a good example for others to follow.

Hotels are good customers for CHP. They need hot water, cooling heating and electrical power.

If the rate-of-return is less than five years there should be many sales.

THIS is the next revolution in energy management! FINALLY we are seeing vision put to practice with these first couple of large scale FC projects. The UTC unit has recently been certified FC-1(ANSI/CSA FC-1) by the international CSA organization.

These FCs are designed to operate in parallel with grid or be switched between full independent source or parallel. At this point the Bloom Box appears to have certain advantages - mostly in their stack being able to operate well on unreformed NG. And they claim they use no exotic/rare metals.

Albertsons is to be congratulated on stepping up to pilot this industry scale CHP project. We need to see a lot more application of this technology which demonstrates the efficacy of distributed energy and the benefits of combined heat/cool and power.

There is a very large fortune awaiting the manufacturer of a low cost 25-50kW device. Good progress!

UTC has been a promoter of CHP, but it has now hidden its turbine units on another part of its website. Fuel Cells may be better than Solar Cells for reducing CO2 and energy consumption, but it seems that fuel cells are still too expensive and complicated to operate. The BLOOM BOX is the latest entry into the fuel cell market. Fuel cells are now only used because of massive taxpayer subsidies.

The Capstone microturbines are very simple devices and need not be expensive and are being used in many places for combined-heat-power and cooling. Their installation has had a payback time as short as a few months and a fuel utilization as high as 90%. It is not well understood that CHP units can have fuel to heat delivery ratios much greater than 150% when used to heat buildings.

Smaller, engine powered, chp units are made by HONDA and there are many more than 50,000 in use in Japan but they are marketed poorly by HONDA in the US and are not available in many states. They can only be bought as an adjunct or possible adjunct to a Climate Energy gas fired home heating furnace.

Much of the cooling load of refrigerators and freezers can be shifted to cooling provided from the waste heat of microturbines that is used in absorbtion chillers or other heat activated chillers. Compresser refrigerators can use the chilled water as a source of cooling for their condensers.

Larger Platten-Munters chillers can be used for refigerators on the the waste heat of turbines. Ice is formed at night with more efficiency in the cooler night air with cheaper night electricity and can be used for air and freezer cooling all the day.

Electronic drives are available for all motors and these can or can be cheaply modified to operate on 200-400 volt direct current. Electronic balasts for lights can also operate on direct current. Even most CFLs in the US can be operated on direct current between 90 and 160 volts and the others can be rewired to operate on 200-300 volts direct current. This means that the expensive grid connecting inverters of Capstone Turbines can be eliminated when used in commercial buildings as they can all be rewired or equipped with very small transformers with rectifiers to produce 120 and 240 volts DC.

Many computer power supplies can even now be operated on direct current just by switching to a 240 volt setting. But a cheap modification can be made to those that don't or they can be replaced with a cheap one that will.

The use of and internal direct current bus eliminated the expense and time of getting permission to connect a generator directly to the public grid.

Rectifiers from the commercial power grid can feed the building's internal direct current grid for power needed beyond the turbines rating or during turbine failure. Massive ice storage facilities can ensure the use of the turbines electricity at all times so it never needs to be connected to the public grid. Battery banks and other commercial devices such as flywheels can support the internal Direct Current grid during demand peaks and power failures until generators are brought on line and load is removed. Such a system was used for higher efficiency in a recently built computer center, but without the turbines unfortunately.

Many or larger free piston compressors, built by LG, can be used for freezers or refigerators at much higher efficiency, and modulated versions of these compressors can be used along with modulated refrigerant valves from Global Cooling.

Hot water, as cool as a hundred degrees, could be used for heating local pools.

No large building in California should be built without a microturbine and its related heating and cooling equipment. Such installations are so cost effective that they should be required immediatly by CARB. The investment in these units pays off far better than solar cells which never pay off the governmental subsidies. CHP units can be required with no subsidies and they will pay off for the operators of buildings and for reducing CO2 release.

It is likely that a microturbine directly connected to a heat pump used for heating can deliver 200% or more of its fuels heat value into a swimming pool or building. ..HG..

Henry,

can you explain your last statement? 200% of let's say methane's heat value? How does that work?

There are no coal powered electric generating stations in California any more. The Demo-greenies forced them to close down, just as they did to all but one Nuclear power station. I do wish you guys were not shooting at ancient myths.

They probably chose that power, due to the total unreliability of the California grid thanks to directed greenie mal-investment. California is down to being able to only generate around 70% of its own power demand.

It has to import power from Oregon, Washington, Nevada Utah, Colorado and Arizona and even from third world Mexico. Hardly a week goes by without Californian commerce and industry being forced somewhere to load-shed by law. In order to prevent public brownouts or rotating blackouts, that the Demo-green lunatics have wrought, and try to hide from the populace.

We all sell our surplus power to the Lotus Eaters in California at a handsome profit; but Arizonans for one, are objecting to running our standby, antiquated, coal plants, getting the pollution, only to ship the power out of state for mere money. Our own generation has a large component provided by clean nuclear and clean hydro.

The situation is precarious. If anyone of the States or Countries ceases doing so, California will go dark for a very long time. Every other State supplier's electric reserve margins are sinking; and California demand is still increasing, but more slowly.

If one State PUC say margins are too thin to export, so "Cease selling". Then the jig is up. All the others don't have enough spare to take up the slack anymore.

The only thing keeping the situation going, is the Great Recession that is suppressing demand; and the evaporation of California Industry as fed up firms, move out, or expand elsewhere.

Go read the Press releases of Google and Intel Silcon Valley execs as to why they chose to build elsewhere. Or you can tour the dead hulk of the last auto plant in California, NUMMI, which is closing. Actually, it may be used to construct the current annual demand for Teslas, around 100 units per year; but that work will merely be tranferred from somewhere else in California.

I can see why this Supermarket didn't want to rely on keeping its foods cold and safe, given the abysmal state of the California Grid reliability. All they are doing is what lots of industries do in the more backward portions of the Third or Communist world, install stand by or full time self generation.

California may be the leader in a new distributed primary power generation trend. If electricity is so short from the grid, this is a golden opportunity for private power supplies, if NG is available is sufficient quantity. If all mid-size and large buildings were to use the same or equivalent approach it could solve the power shortage problem and show the rest of the world that it can be done.

California's power grid works fine. We have saved more in power usage per person than other states over the years. There is plenty of money to be made supplying power. During the Enron looting, permits were issued to build plants, but they did not build them. I have NEVER heard of any business not building in the state due to power issues.

Harvey is right. This IS an opportunity to build out a distributed energy infrastructure. Starting with these small businesses. If Albertson's functions as well as the Bloom Box pilot at Google - they will save money on heating and cooling (lots of cooling in grocery) and generate 400kW of their own power.

The benefits are large. JOBS for manufacturers and installers of CHP systems. Cost savings in less than five years for some systems. Removal of ancient overhead and underground grid wiring and attendant line losses. And no need for coal generated supplemental power imported from other states. These are eco-cleaner systems emitting less CO2 and particulates than coal-fired power.

It is a good investment that can create business and boost the economy. It saves natural gas, reduces pollution, provides a backup and reduces the load on the grid. It is not often that we can do good and do well with one move.

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