Officials from United Illuminating, the Town of Woodbridge and Amity Regional School District #5 today joined Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee to announce the completion of a new fuel cell at Amity Regional High School.
The fuel cell, which is already in operation, can generate up to 2.2 megawatts of clean “Class 1” renewable energy. It also provides heat for the high school, and will soon serve as the generation source for the Town’s microgrid, which will supply power to seven municipal buildings during outages caused by storms and similar events. Construction on the microgrid will begin this spring.
“We’re proud to announce that the Woodbridge fuel cell is now operational,” said Anthony Marone III, president and CEO of UI’s parent company, UIL Holdings. UIL is a subsidiary of AVANGRID, Inc. (NYSE: AGR). “In addition to contributing clean energy to the power grid, it is providing an efficient heat source for Amity Regional High School. It also will ensure critical town facilities have a supply of power during storms and similar events. Finally, it will serve as an educational resource for students in the Amity Regional School District and beyond.”
“Amity is proud to be part of a project that fosters education, community and environmental awareness,” added Charles Dumais, superintendent of the Amity Regional School District #5, which includes the towns of Woodbridge, Bethany and Orange. “Our students will benefit from the opportunity to interact directly with a state-of the-art clean energy facility, the District will benefit from the reclaimed heat, and the community will have a reliable source of energy during emergencies.”
The microgrid project is possible because the Town of Woodbridge received a $3 million grant from the State of Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation Microgrid Pilot Program. The grant will cover the cost to bury the power lines to create the microgrid, but Woodbridge needed to come up with and fund a power source for the microgrid.
At the same time, UI was looking for projects to help it meet its commitment to generate a total of 10 megawatts of clean energy under the state’s Renewable Connections Program (RCP). The Town and UI, essentially, solved each other’s problems by installing a UI fuel cell to power the Town’s microgrid. The fuel cell was installed at Amity Regional High School so that the waste heat the power plant produced could be collected and used to heat the school.
The fuel cell power plant was built and installed by FuelCell Energy, Inc. of Danbury, which will operate it under contract with UI. The unit converts clean natural gas into electricity and heat through a highly efficient electrochemical process that is free of combustion and virtually absent of harmful particulates. FuelCell Energy is also designing the microgrid controller that will run its automated operation when it is complete later this year.
“It is critical that even when the lights go out due to severe weather events, essential government support and services are available, and microgrid projects like this are exactly how we can do that,” Governor Malloy said. “Microgrids, and the fuel cells that are helping support them, are an essential part of our strategy to make certain that we harden our infrastructure in order to better withstand the type of catastrophic storms we have experienced in recent years. And at the same time, they are also providing an efficient energy source that in the long run will help save taxpayer money. I’m proud that we’re able to support projects like these for the people of our state and the Town of Woodbridge.”
“Woodbridge residents have felt the effects of increasingly severe and frequent storms, with prolonged power outages,” said Woodbridge First Selectman Ellen Scalettar. “Our plan to build one of the first-in-the-nation municipal microgrids will provide comfort and security to our residents by assuring uninterrupted power to Town Hall, the Library, the Fire Station, the Center Building (Senior Center, Police Department) and Amity Regional High School. The commissioning of this fuel cell is the first step toward creating our microgrid.”
The fuel cell project completes UI’s commitment under Connecticut’s Renewable Connections Program (RCP) to build and operate facilities generating up to 10 megawatts of clean, class-I renewable energy. UI’s other RCP projects include a 5-megawatt combined fuel cell and solar facility in Bridgeport, and a 2.8-megawatt fuel cell power plant in New Haven. All three facilities use FuelCell Energy, Inc. power plants.
“Installation of this fuel cell demonstrates the important role alternative technologies can play in meeting our state’s energy needs,” said Robert Klee, Commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). “It also calls attention to innovative approaches we are taking to minimize hardships to residents and businesses when severe storms occur and the electric grid goes down – as this fuel cell will ultimately be at the core of a microgrid that ensures the continued operation of critical public services – and provides shelter for people – in the event of an emergency.”
“Forward and innovative thinking enabled AVANGRID to own the fuel cell power plant, yielding a cost-effective, integrated project with benefits to energy consumers and the entire community,” said Chip Bottone, president and CEO of FuelCell Energy.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Amity Regional High School, Marone presented the school district with a $200,000 Energize Connecticut incentive check, recognizing the school district’s investments in energy efficiency — including heating the high school with recaptured heat from the UI fuel cell and an LED lighting project.
“This incentive check, provided through the Energize Connecticut initiative, is a down payment on the significant savings the Amity Regional School District will achieve as a result of this project and other efforts to improve energy efficiency,” Marone said.