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Ballard fuel cell system to use biomass-generated hydrogen on California reservation

Canadian-based Ballard Power Systems has sold a ClearGen™ distributed generation fuel cell system to an Indian reservation in northern California. The 175 kW system will be integrated with a biomass gasifier and syngas purification unit to form an integrated biomass-to-fuel cell power solution.

The Ballard ClearGen PEM fuel cell system for the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe of Humboldt County will be the first of its kind, with the potential to double the efficiency of biomass-to-power generation.

‘The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe is committed to renewable power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the energy efficiency of our facilities,’ says the Tribe’s vice chair, Arla Ramsey. ‘Biomass-to-fuel cell power is an excellent match for our community and our region, and we see tremendous potential for deployments beyond our own facilities.’

The system will convert locally grown timber by-product feedstock into hydrogen-rich syngas, using pyrolysis gasification technology. This syngas will then be purified, resulting in a high-quality hydrogen stream, which will be used to power the ClearGen fuel cell system.

The plant will provide baseload power for the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe’s commercial enterprises, and by-product heat will be used to warm the swimming pool in an adjacent hotel.

The Tribe will integrate the ClearGen system, biomass gasifier, and fuel purification unit with support from the Schatz Energy Research Center, a research and teaching centre affiliated with Humboldt State University’s Environmental Resources Engineering programme.

‘Using biomass to produce hydrogen is an important enabler for distributed generation applications,’ comments Larry Stapleton, VP of Sales at Ballard. ‘This initial installation will demonstrate a renewable, high-efficiency, low-emission solution that is cost-competitive today in communities relying on diesel generators.’

The project is supported by a proposed funding award to the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a local-government joint powers agency, from the California Energy Commission’s Community Scale Renewable Energy Development, Deployment and Integration Program. This Program focuses on technical solutions that enable communities to rely primarily on locally available renewable resources to provide electricity at competitive rates.

In 2010 Ballard deployed a ClearGen fuel cell power generator at the K2 Pure Solutions’ bleach plant in Pittsburg, California, operating on by-product hydrogen from the bleach plant.

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Green building