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FirstEnergy, Ballard to Demo 1-MW Mobile Fuel Cell System

FirstEnergy and Ballard Power Systems are testing a utility-scale fuel cell system that will produce one megawatt of electricity. It’s considered to be the world’s largest proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen-powered fuel cell. At 54-ft. long, the unit is mounted on a tractor-trailer for mobility. The demonstration is being conducted at the FirstEnergy’s Eastlake Plant in Eastlake, Ohio. 

Ballard Power Systems completed factory testing of the utility-scale PEM fuel cell-powered generator, using the company’s PEM fuel cells, in July.

Over the next five years, the companies will test the performance of the system in real-world operating conditions to better understand its capability to provide generating capacity during peak use periods in the months of May through September. The performance and operating data will be evaluated in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

“Finding new sources of clean, renewable peaking energy is important for meeting our customers’ energy needs and helping us meet increasingly stringent environmental requirements,” said Gary R. Leidich, executive vice president and president of FirstEnergy Generation, in a statement. “This fuel cell system has the added benefit of being mobile, so it can provide peaking power when and where it’s needed.”

The system is comprised of nine fuel cell modules, a compressor compartment that provides air for the fuel cell reaction, an inverter compartment that converts the power from 640-volt direct current to 380-volt alternating current (AC), and a transformer to step up the voltage to 480-volt, three-phase AC power to the electrical system.

Ballard’s PEM fuel cells combine hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electrical energy. The only byproducts of the process are heat and water. Because it uses hydrogen as fuel, the system is considered renewable.

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