Fuel Cells Cost Effective for Electric Power Generation

Study authored by Rocky Mountain Institute

Published: 08-Mar-2002

SNOWMASS, Colo., March 7 (AScribe Newswire) -- With today's concern about national security, the generation and distribution of electrical energy is recognized as one of America's most vulnerable areas. But electricity generation doesn't have to be a security risk, if new power sources are decentralized, smaller and closer to the customer. One such source, which appears to have great potential for supplying reliable, affordable energy, is the fuel cell.

Rocky Mountain Institute is announcing the publication of a research paper on the cost-effectiveness of fuel cells as an electrical generation source. Cleaner Energy, Greener Profits: Fuel Cells as Cost-Effective Distributed Energy Resources was written by RMI researcher Joel Swisher, a recognized authority on electric power and utility issues. The findings are detailed in a 36-page report, generously illustrated with graphs, charts and full-color photos.

Fuel cells convert fuel, usually hydrogen, into electricity at high efficiency, without combustion and with negligible emissions. Their potential applications include vehicles and small, portable electrical devices, but the report is concerned with their use in producing domestic, commercial and industrial power.

In Cleaner Energy, Greener Profits, Swisher finds that, over the next decade, the electric power industry will continue to shift from the traditional centrally focused "generation-transmission-distribution" companies into a more competitive and heterogeneous structure. In this new environment, the use of fuel cells will rapidly become economical if their proponents can capture their benefits as small, decentralized power sources.

Fuel cells and other such distributed generation sources require less initial investment and don't result in overbuilding of capacity as do large power plants. They require less power distribution infrastructure (wires and transformers) because they can be sited close to where the power is used. They are cleaner and quieter than conventional power generation sources, so they can be located near or inside buildings where their output is used. And, equally important, they are more reliable.

Cleaner Energy, Greener Profits can be ordered at http://www.rmi.org/store/pid385.php or by mail from Publications, Rocky Mountain Institute, 1739 Snowmass Creek Rd. Snowmass, CO 81654. The price is $15 plus shipping and handling in the U.S. The document is also available in pdf format, downloadable from http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid171.php at no charge.

Rocky Mountain Institute is a non-profit research and consulting organization, promoting whole-systems solutions and the efficient use of energy and resources to create a more secure, prosperous, and life-sustaining world.

Author Joel N. Swisher, a senior researcher and consultant with RMI, is a Registered Professional Engineer and holds a PhD in Energy and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University.

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