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Hartford Courant - A Complex Deal To Result In Bridgeport Fuel Cell Park

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By Brian Dowling

A deal involving two of the state's electric utilities, a power generation company, the state, the city of Bridgeport and a Danbury manufacturer will result in a 14.9 megawatt fuel cell park to be erected in Bridgeport by the end of 2013 -- generating enough power for 15,000 homes.

Under the deal, which was years in the making, five 2.8-megawatt fuel cells made by FuelCell Energy in Danbury will be sold to to Dominion Energy, one of the country's largest producers of power. Power from the fuel cells will be sold at a fixed price to Connecticut Light & Power and fed to substations owned by United Illuminating.

"This is the largest project we've developed to date in the USA," Chip Bottone, chief executive of FuelCell Energy, said in a written statement Friday. "This highly efficient and ultra-clean fuel cell park will provide economic value for a broad number of stakeholders, both public and private, as well as provide public health benefits."

The fuel cell park will provide distributed power to a slice of Bridgeport, giving some the reliability benefits of a microgrid with power is closer in proximity, which has been a hot topic following two years of strong storms that sent hundreds of thousands in the state into the dark. The plan for the fuel cell park has been in the works for at least five years.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy said the Bridgeport fuel cell park is a great example of the clean, cheap and reliable energy systems that are promoted in his new energy plan. "The more we can reach agreements like this, the lower rates will be for residents and businesses and the more competitive our state will be," he said in a written release.

The company's fuel cells convert natural gas to hydrogen, which is then made into electricity and heat, with no combustion and only trace amounts of pollutants.

Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch called the project a "terrific example of urban redevelopment" and another successful piece of the city's eco-industrial park.

The fuel cell park will be on land leased from the City of Bridgeport. The 1.7 acres of city-owned land is near I-95 and the northeast rail corridor. Dominion, based in Virginia, is the company that owns the Millstone nuclear power station in Waterford.

FuelCell Energy will operate and service the fuel cell park for 15 years, with the project adding about $125 million to the company's backlog in production and servicing. Construction on the park will begin in the summer and should continue in stages until its completion in December 2013.

The fuel cell park is expected to support 160 jobs and will further the state's renewable power generation goals. Some financial support for the project comes from the state's Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority.

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