Ballard launches world's largest fuel-cell generator on wheels

August 12, 2010   by PLANT STAFF

An exterior view of the CLEARgen generator on wheels destined for Eastlake, Ohio.

Photo: Ballard

BURNABY, BC: Ballard Power Systems and Ohio’s FirstEnergy Generation Corp. are powering up the world’s largest fuel-cell generator.

Called the CLEARgen and based on Ballard’s proton exchange membrane (PEM) technology, the tractor trailer-sized generator on wheels has the capacity to power a small town.

It’s destined for Eastlake, Ohio where the state’s First Energy will deploy it for a five-year trial run. During periods of peak demand, it will take some of the strain off the power grid and ensure uninterrupted power to customers during the summer when demand is highest.

Ballard, a developer of hydrogen fuel-cell technology based in Burnaby, BC, said the fuel cell system is capable of generating up to one megawatt of power—enough to power 500 homes on its own.

“It’s a huge leap forward and a significant first for Ballard,” said Michael Goldstein, Ballard’s chief commercial officer. “More importantly, we believe this deal helps ensure that fuel cell technology will be an integral part of the clean energy solution identified as a priority by President Obama.”

Because hydrogen fuel cells produce only heat and water as by-products, they’re more environmentally sustainable than generating power from diesel or coal. And because the CLEARgen generator is transportable, it can be relocated to other sites on a seasonal basis.

Ballard said CLEARgen could also be used to provide power to remote communities in Canada and elsewhere that rely on diesel generators for electricity because they are too far from the electrical grid. It’s also capable of running off by-product hydrogen from chemical plants and generating clean electricity for sale to a power grid or to power the facility, which is what Ballard will be doing with K2 Pure Solutions at its bleach plant in California.

FirstEnergy Generation Corp. is a subsidiary of Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., the fifth largest investor-owned electric system in the US with 4.5 million customers.

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