Unique Fuel Cell Will Provide Power and Heat To Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe
Renewable Energy System To Create Biomass-Generated Hydrogen
It hasn’t been reported in the local news, but Ballard Power Systems announced the sale of a 175-kilowatt ClearGen™ distributed generation fuel cell system to the Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe of Humboldt County in their press release last week.
The system will be the first of its kind, and with the potential to double the efficiency of biomass-to-power generation, the company claims. The fuel cell system will be integrated with a “biomass gasifier and syngas purification unit to form an integrated biomass-to-fuel cell power solution.”
Well, that’s the engineer-speak, anyway. Engineers are complicated folks. In other words, it will use available biomass to create cheaper, cleaner, and renewable hydrogen gas energy.
The system will convert locally-grown timber –by-product feedstock– into hydrogen-rich syngas, using pyrolysis gasification technology. This syngas will then be purified, resulting in a high quality hydrogen stream, which will be used to power the ClearGen™ fuel cell system.
If that’s hard to digest, the company has a slick and easy-to-understand 4-minute video primer explaining it all in layman terms.
The fuel cell plant will provide base load power for the Tribe’s commercial enterprises, and by-product heat will be used to warm the swimming pool in an adjacent hotel.
Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe will integrate the ClearGen™ system, biomass gasifier and fuel purification unit with support from the Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC), a research and teaching center affiliated with Humboldt State Uni-
versity’s Environmental Resources Engineering program.
The project is supported by a proposed $1.75 million funding award to the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a local-government joint powers agency, from the California Energy Commission’s Community Scale Renewable Energy Development Program. The program focuses on technical solutions enabling communities to rely primarily on locally-available renewable resources to provide electricity at competitive rates.
The biomass power system will be sited at the Blue Lake Rancheria and has the potential to double the efficiency of
generating electricity from biomass. SERC will function as
the engineering integrator for the biomass system. SERC
engineers have already pioneered advancements in hydrogen
technology and fuel cells.
We’re eager to work with our partners to bring this system on-line,” said Peter Lehman, Founding Director of SERC. “It will pioneer a new way to make renewable hydrogen available to produce electricity with fuel cells cleanly and efficiently.”
“It is exciting to be making significant progress toward the Tribe’s goal of exceeding California’s renewable energy standards,” commented Jana Ganion, Energy Director for the Blue Lake Rancheria, “and this type of system may fulfill the energy needs of similar communities through local, renewable resources.”
The energy upgrade project component focuses on energy efficiency, solar energy systems, and heat pumps for residences and businesses, training for equipment technicians, and other initiatives for energy conservation throughout the Mad River Valley Community. The electric vehicle component will include installation of two charging stations within the Mad River Valley Community, and monitoring the performance of these stations over the course of one year.
“The Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe is committed to renewable power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the energy efficiency of our facilities,” said Arla Ramsey, the Tribe’s vice chairperson. “Biomass-to-fuel cell power is an excellent match for our community and our region, and we see tremendous potential for deployments beyond our own facilities.”
“Using biomass to produce hydrogen is an important enabler for distributed generation applications,” said Larry Stapleton, Ballard Power System’s Vice President of Sales. “This initial installation will demonstrate a renewable, high efficiency, low emission solution that is cost competitive today in communities relying on diesel generators.”
Ballard Power Systems is a Canadian-based company with production facilities in Mexico. The company, currently trading at $1.20 a share(BLDP), provides clean energy fuel cell products for a broad range of applications.
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You can see the Sentinel’s previous article on the Rancheria’s energy plans here.
We’re pleased to see the combined efforts of the Blue Lake Rancheria, Redwood Coast Energy Authority, and SERC’s Peter Lehman bringing innovative technology to Humboldt.
We’re so used to saying that if the end of the world comes, we want to be in Humboldt. Everything comes here ten years later.