Fuel Cells Strengthen Grid Resiliency

Hurricane Sandy storm damage
Storms like 2012’s Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the resiliency of fuel cells in providing bac,up grid power.
(cc) USFWS

The severe weather events that struck the U.S. northeast states in recent years disrupted emergency communications and cost businesses millions of dollars, demonstrating the need for new technologies and policies to prevent future disaster. Fortunately, for some communities, stationary fuel cell systems proved their ability to provide power during grid outages, with dozens of systems and tens of megawatts deployed from New Jersey to Maine for utilities, public institutions, and businesses. A new white paper from the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) finds that continued growth of fuel cell power generation requires a combination of industry innovation and supportive public policies at the state and local levels.

Fuel cells generate electricity through an emission-free electrochemical reaction, instead of traditional combustion, providing high levels of reliability.

In the situations noted, fuel cells proved to be especially resilient because they typically utilized America’s abundant natural gas supplies accessed through the nation’s network of underground natural gas pipelines. As recent storms show, those pipelines are largely unaffected by severe weather events, which allows fuel cell power systems to operate when other primary and backup systems cannot.

The FCHEA white paper, “Enhancing the Role of Fuel Cells for Northeast Grid Resiliency,” provides case studies of stationary fuel cell system performance during recent storms, and analyzes the current state of policy initiatives in the northeast states, calling for greater adoption of legislation and regulatory changes to support increased installation of fuel cell systems.

“America’s fuel cell industry has shown their ability time and again to protect homes and businesses from debilitating power failure during storms and other disruptions,” said Morry Markowitz, President of the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association. “Enacting policies to expand deployment of fuel cells will help prevent large-scale grid outages as our electric infrastructure continues to age, all while meeting the goals of reducing our nation’s carbon footprint and reliance on foreign oil.”

The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) is the trade association for the fuel cell and hydrogen energy industry, representing fuel cell manufacturers, automobile companies, hydrogen and fuel distributors, component and system manufacturers, government laboratories, and trade associations.

Download the white paper, Enhancing the Role of Fuel Cells for Northeast Grid Resiliency. Additional reports and analyses of the fuel cell industry are available online at http://www.fchea.org/reports/