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Wednesday, March 21 Business

FuelCell Energy to receive $3.1 million in DOE funding

FuelCell Energy will receive $3.1 million in funding from the Department of Energy for research as part of DOE’s Integrate program that will develop energy-efficient, natural gas-powered electric generation systems.

The project name for the ARPA-E, or Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, funding is Adaptive SOFC for Ultra High Efficiency Systems. DOE’s Integrate program seeks to develop advanced natural gas-fueled, distributed electric generation systems with conversion efficiencies of more than 70 percent.

Integrate is an acronym for Innovative Natural-gas Technologies for Efficiency Gain in Reliable and Affordable Thermochemical Electricity-generation. The program, according to DOE, hopes to achieve “unprecedented efficiency” levels at a low cost by developing fuel cell and engine hybrid systems. The systems would be used for commercial and industrial uses, such as hospitals, hotels, offices and factories, according to the DOE.

The DOE selected eight projects for funding. FuelCell Energy will develop a “low-cost architecture for a pressurized solid oxide fuel cell stack for integration into a variety of hybrid-energy systems with unsurpassed efficiencies greater than 70 percent,” according to a DOE announcement. FuelCell Energy will build 5-kilowatt stacks that can be grouped together in a pressurized container. The modules may be added or removed as needed.

“The performance enhancements enabled by the project will allow higher efficiency utilization of domestic fuels, as well as high efficiency electrolysis and energy storage for integration of intermittent renewable power sources in the grid.” said Tony Leo, vice president of Advanced Applications & Technology Development for FuelCell Energy.

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, who toured FuelCell Energy’s manufacturing plant in Torrington on Monday, applauded the funding announcement on Tuesday.

“Businesses like FuelCell are creating the kinds of next-generation jobs that Connecticut needs,” Esty said. “The R&D that’s being done in Danbury and Torrington will pave the way for a new era of Connecticut innovation and ensure that we remain on the cutting edge for the foreseeable future. I’m proud to support it.”

The current U.S. electric system is dominated by “large, central power plants” that are “highly energy inefficient” and lose about two-thirds of the primary energy potential during generation and transmission, according to the DOE. Integrate seeks to generate electricity at an efficiency rate of 70 percent or more.

Last week, FuelCell Energy announced strong first-quarter revenue of $38.6 million, which more than doubled its revenue from the opening quarter of 2017. Backlog and project awards are at record levels of $1.6 billion, company officials said.

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Michael Bishop, CEO of FuelCell Energy, said last week the revenue and backlog levels has the company “well positioned … on our pathway to sustainable profitability.”

FuelCell Energy is based in Danbury and has a manufacturing facility in Torrington.

The writer may be reached at cbosak@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3338