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Fuel cells are electro chemical devices whose basic operating principal is similar to a battery, converting a continuous supply of hydrogen into electricity without combustion. Heat, which is a by-product of the generation of electricity, can either be reused by the fuel cell to increase the electrical efficiency or it can be exported to a useful thermal load, in which case the fuel cell is a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) unit.
In most cases, natural gas is the fuel from which the hydrogen is derived. However, because a fuel cell has very few moving parts, if can achieve efficiencies and net source GHG reductions that are better than most conventional natural gas engine generator sets, and are comparable with natural gas fueled combustion-based CHP systems. Fuel cells operate much more quietly with much less vibration than standard engine generators.
Stationary fuel cells can be used in a variety of commercial, industrial and residential applications delivering savings both by generating electricity at a lower cost than power purchased from an electric utility, and by reducing demand charges. Fuel cells can also be readily configured to provide energy resiliency to a facility, supplying both electricity and/or heat to a facility’s designated critical loads during a grid outage.