'Electricity in a box' could supplement power gridgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
'Electricity in a box' could supplement power grid
Thursday, December 14, 2000
By Linda Ashton The Associated Press
RICHLAND, Wash. — A machine the size of an office copier could one day bring heat and light to thousands of homes in the West at locations so remote they're out of reach of electrical transmission lines.
Fuel cells, essentially batteries that don't go dead, run on oxygen and hydrogen and have the potential to replace wood stoves, noisy generators and kerosene lamps for those living off the grid.
A half-century ago, the electrification of Washington was so limited that some 80 percent of the state geographically relied on alternative sources of energy, something known as distributed generation, said Greg Smith, vice president of generation for Energy Northwest, which operates the region's only nuclear power plant, 10 miles north of here.
"What goes around comes around," Smith said. "The future of electricity, at least for residential customers, may be where we're going back to."
Energy Northwest, a public power consortium of 13 utilities, is participating in a Bonneville Power Administration test of Bend, Ore.-based IdaTech's fuel cells.
The Energy Northwest fuel cell has a steady-state capacity of three kilowatts and can handle peak loads of about five kilowatts — the power demand of an average home.
Fueled with methanol, it is supposed to last indefinitely, although that's still to be determined.
The first-generation fuel cell has had some reliability problems with automatic shutdowns, but "it's very close to being a very practical device," says Stan Davison, a resource development specialist for Energy Northwest.
The second generation of fuel cells from IdaTech, a subsidiary of Boise-based Idacorp, are expected to be ready for testing early next year, and the Bonneville Power Administration has said it will work with utilities to place some in homes.
At $25,000 each, these machines are not yet priced for most homeowners. But the cost per unit is expected to drop eventually to the $5,000 to $7,000 range.
Bonneville, a federal power marketing agency in Portland, Ore., calls these experimental fuel cells "electricity in a box," a clean, green form of energy with potential for residential and small commercial use.
Survivalists and people with mountain homes aren't the only likely customers. Fuel cells could provide backup power for farms, small businesses and enterprises such as hospitals, which could be thrown into chaos without electricity.
-- Cave Man (email@example.com), December 14, 2000
They're going to have to do something quickly. Alternative fuels are nice, but the costs of solar equipment isn't within the average grasp of most homeowners out there. The fuel cells might be the best bet.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 15, 2000.
a href=" http://hv.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=0013RR"> Consumer interest grows for personal power plants
-- (email@example.com), December 15, 2000.
Okay, I'm going to say the "N" word here - our only alternative for clean, safe, power is nuclear power. We can no longer be dependent on natural gas and oil to keep the power grid going. We can't depend on the wind or sun everyday for our energy needs. I think a few rolling blackouts here in California will send the message home to people to conserve. Right now it's 7:31 a.m. and the guy down the road has his whole house lit up with Xmas lights. Looks like the environmentalists have won here in California. We need more power plants but communities are saying "not in my back yard."
-- bardou (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 15, 2000.
-- (email@example.com), December 15, 2000
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-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 15, 2000.