In May 2006, Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail brought on-line an exciting hybrid energy generation system that includes solar arrays, fuel cell stacks, and co-generation; all functioning in tandem. Covered in an Energy and Power Management article entitled “Santa Rita’s Fuel Cell Adds Reliability to Solar Installation”, this hybrid energy system provides grid-beating electrical conversion efficiency (49%), low pollutant emissions, and redundancy against grid failures and brownouts.
The twin centerpieces of the Santa Rita Jail instillation are a 1.2 MW photovoltaic array from PowerLight and a 1 MW Direct Fuel Cell® from Fuel Cell Energy. Being a carbonate fuel cell, this power plant runs hot enough to enable internal reformation; so, natural gas can be used as fuel, instead of hydrogen. Overall, this system saves Alameda County (which is in California) over $266,000 per year in electricity costs alone, not to mention offset heating costs and waived air quality permitting requirements.
This installation, the first hybrid solar-array/fuel-cell energy system in the United States, was named to the California Energy Commission’s Distributed Energy Resource Guide.
For more information on successful government energy initiatives, check out my blog post: “US Postal Service Pioneers Renewable Energy and Transport Tech”.