Proton Unveils Innovative Generator

Last week’s blackout helped put the spotlight on a company here that manufactures backup generators using alternative technologies

Published: 22-Aug-2003

Proton Energy Systems announced Wednesday that its hydrogen-based UNIGEN generator is ready for the commercial market. The Mohegan Tribe, which owns the Mohegan Sun casino in Uncasville, is one of the newest customers to sign up for one of the generators, company officials said.

The UNIGEN combines a hydrogen generator with a regenerative fuel cell system. The fuel cell system can produce hydrogen, store it and generate electricity out of the stored hydrogen during power outages.

"The reliability problems faced by end users cannot be solved with more and better centralized generation and transmission," said Walter Schroeder, Proton Energy’s chief executive officer, in a conference call Wednesday. "Fuel cells will see widespread use in stationary units long before they are heavily used in autos."

The UNIGEN can make and store enough hydrogen to last for five hours or more. Proton Energy officials said they make a better alternative to batteries for power outages that last between 8 and 20 hours.

Company officials said Proton Energy has spent $3 million on research and testing of the backup generators, which provide 1 to 5 kilowatts of power.

In the tests, the generator started replacing power so quickly that electronic equipment did not even respond to the outage, said Proton Energy President Larry Sweet.

The units produce no pollution or noise, making them more attractive than batteries to high-end niche companies, he said.

"We could produce volume in these products in the next two to three years," Sweet said.

Support for the research came from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Navy.

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