The first award under the state of Ohio's $100-million, three-year fuel-cell research and development program is expected to be made shortly. The state has put up $839,000 toward the $1.26-million cost of a 250-kw fuel-cell powerplant for the city of Westerville.

ON GRID Ohio town's fuel cell will provide grid support.

Columbus-based wholesale power provider American Municipal Power-Ohio will manage the project, which is expected to use a unit manufactured by FuelCell Energy Inc., Danbury, Conn., and distributed by Caterpillar Inc., Peoria, Ill. Contract negotiations should be complete within a few weeks, says FuelCell spokesman Bill Baker.

"This is the first utility-scale powerplant installed at a substation to provide grid support," says Malcolm Jacobson, FuelCell vice president of market development.

"That's a very good application of fuel cells," says Rusi Patel, vice president of Kema-Xenergy, an energy-services and consulting company in Burlington, Mass. Fuel cells electrolytically combine hydrogen with oxygen to create electricity and heat.

President Bush's focus on the hydrogen economy in his recent State of the Union address bodes well for fuel-cell technology, Baker says. "Something has got to happen now, and that is stationary fuel cells that make their own hydrogen," he says. Unlike other fuel cells, FCE units re-form hydrogen internally from natural gas.

Although the Dept. of Energy has active programs for clean-energy technologies, leadership in clean-energy development has come from the state and local level, according to Clean Energy Trends 2003. In the report published last month, Clean Edge Inc., an Oakland, Calif.-based clean-energy market-research and consulting firm, forecasts that fuel cells for mobile, stationary and portable applications will continue to grow aggressively from $500 million to $12.5 billion by 2012. "We believe we're going to see the largest growth in the stationary and portable" fuel cells, says Ron Pernick, co-founder and principal.

Michigan and California also have programs promoting automotive fuel-cell research and development.

As if to validate Clean Edge's point, the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, Rocky Hill, in late February announced that it has selected 24 of 60 proposals it received in response to the first phase of its 2002 program to promote the commercial viability and development of fuel-cell power generation. Proposals under Round 2, seeking a share of nearly $9 million of state funding, are due April 1.

Six projects selected under the 2001 program will begin operation within six months, says Subhash Chandra, CCEF managing director and chief technology officer. The largest will be a two-cell, 500-kw plant at a bakery in Bloomfield.

A 50-Mw fuel-cell project selected in the same round is still in development. The plant would stack 25 cells of a 2-Mw FuelCell Energy model to be rolled out this year, says Jim Murkette, CEO of Purepower LLC, Norwalk, Conn. "We're not inventing anything new, just putting together a vast array of simple pieces," he says. It would be installed in transmission-constrained Fairfield County in southwest Connecticut to power a compressor station, probably for Iroquois Gas Transmission Co., according to CCEF. Excess generation would be sold into the grid.