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Electric Company Pledges $2M to University for Research into Carbon Capture and Coal-Based Fuel Cell Systems

FirstEnergy Corp., an Ohio-based electric company, pledged $2 million to The University of Akron to establish the FirstEnergy Fund for Advanced Energy Research. The fund will be used to create the FirstEnergy Advanced Energy Research Center at the University and support development of carbon capture and coal-based fuel cells.

The Advanced Energy Research Center initially will focus on development of carbon capture technologies that could be used by fossil-fueled power plants and the development of coal-based fuel cells for commercial use.

The University also plans to expand the center’s work over time to include development of new electric grid technologies needed for end-use efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and energy storage, as well as advanced generation technologies such as renewables, clean-coal and other low-or zero-emissions technologies.

FirstEnergy also has secured a $250,000 contribution to the fund from CONSOL Energy, one of the nation’s leading coal producers and a major fuel supplier to the electric power industry in the northeast United States.

The US Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory launched a Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems program in 2005 with 36-month awards to two research teams—one led by General Electric Hybrid Power Generations Systems and the other by Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation—with the goal of developing the fuel cell technology required for central power stations to produce affordable, efficient, more environmentally-friendly electricity from coal.

The NETL program leverages knowledge gained in DOE’s Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA), extending coal-based solid oxide fuel cell technology to large central power generation stations.

NETL expects advances made under the Fuel Cell Coal-Based Systems program to become key enabling technologies for FutureGen, a DOE demonstration of advanced power systems that emit near-zero emissions, have double today’s electric generating efficiency, co-produce hydrogen, and capture and sequester carbon dioxide.

Goals of the GE and Siemens projects include:

  • At least 50% overall efficiency in converting the energy contained in coal to grid electrical power.

  • Capture of 90% or more of the system’s carbon dioxide emissions.

  • Cost of $400 per kilowatt, exclusive of the coal gasification unit and carbon dioxide separation subsystems.

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