Battery Switch Technology

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fuel Cell Technology

What Is a Fuel Cell?

Fuel cells are self-contained, power-generation devices that are able to produce reliable electricity for residential, commercial, industrial and transportation applications. A fuel cell can convert hydrogen directly into electricity that can be used to power an electric car, for example, or a home.

What Are the Benefits?

In fuel cells, the use of hydrogen produces fewer greenhouse gases than does burning fossil fuels. Fuel cells convert energy efficiently, which helps conserve energy resources, and a byproduct of this electro-chemical process is pure water — a clear benefit for the environment.

However, hydrogen — a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas — is not found freely in nature. It must be extracted from other substances. Before fuel cells can achieve widespread use in vehicle or stationary-power markets, hydrogen as a fuel will have to be readily available. None of this will happen overnight. Hydrogen will become part of the world's energy supply step by step as technical challenges are overcome and market forces create new opportunities. This could take decades.

What Is Being Done

In San Ramon, California, the first commercially operating stationary fuel cell power plant in the San Francisco Bay Area. The plant turns hydrogen and oxygen into electricity and provides 200 kilowatts of electricity to power a portion of our corporate data center. The fuel cell power plant separates hydrogen (supplied by natural gas, a hydrocarbon fuel) into its basic elements and combines it with oxygen from the air, creating electricity, clean water and usable heat.

The onsite fuel cell has a number of benefits that include:

  • Providing a clean, quiet and reliable independent power source for critical electric loads.
  • Demonstrating an efficient technology that involves no combustion, recovers heat and clean water for multiple uses, and reduces demand on the local electricity grid.
  • Allowing us to monitor and analyze fuel cell performance relative to conventional power technologies in a commercial application.

The fuel cell application is designed to support computer servers that must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In the event of a disruption on local utility lines, which also deliver power to the data center, special switching equipment ensures the fuel cell will continue to provide electricity to these servers without interruption. The first megawatt-class fuel cell in California at Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail, the third-largest county detention facility in the state and the fifth-largest in the nation. The fuel cell provides continuous high-quality power 24 hours a day, and the exhaust heat byproduct can be used for combined heat and power for the buildings.

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