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Stressed U.S. Power Grid – National Academies Recommends Fuel Cell R&D

A newly released report by the National Academy of Sciences (actually written in 2007 and recently declassified) examines the U.S  electric power system, finding it vulnerable and “in urgent need of attention.”  The report declares that the U.S. grid is heavily stressed and at risk of multiple failures following a terrorist attack or a natural disaster – as was recently experienced with Hurricane Sandy.

The report’s authors recommend that regional vulnerability assessments be conducted and cost-effective strategies be developed to reduce these grid vulnerabilities.

The report suggests that further R&D be conducted on distributed generation (power that is generated at, or near, the point of use), as well as micro-grids (a small group of interconnected power loads and distributed power generation resources that are capable of disconnecting from the grid to operate in “island” mode) in order to augment today’s large central power generators.  In particular, fuel cells are identified as one the key distributed generation technologies that bear further examination.

The full range of fuel cells – PEM, SOFC, MCFC, etc. – are suited for distributed power generation, delivering high quality, high efficiency, reliable power to homes and buildings when grid power goes down.  This can be especially important for critical sites such as hospitals, data servers, and communications infrastructure.

And during recovery, we all need supplies – from hardware stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.  Fuel cells are ideal for these sites.  In fact, many companies have already deployed them.  In California, 26 Walmart and Sam’s Club retail sites operate using fuel cell power.  And in California and in the northeast, some of grocery stores operated by Safeway, Whole Foods Market, Fresh and Easy, Price Chopper, Star Market and Albertson’s also use fuel cells.  Given the rate that fuel cells are being adopted my major corporations, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this number grow.

Fuel Cells 2000 highlights U.S. companies deploying fuel cells for primary power (distributed generation) or backup power in our annual reports, The Business Case for Fuel Cells.  We will be coming out soon with our 2012 edition soon, so be sure to keep an eye on our website for this new release.   In the meantime, you can take a look at past editions of the Business Case here.

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