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Publication Title | Residential Fuel Cells

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Hope

Russ Barlow ©1999 Russ Barlowor Hype?

A Plug Power LLC technician evaluates a prototype for the Plug Power 7000 residential fuel cell system. The system will provide an output of 7 KW, enough to power an average-sized home.

Imagine a furnace that not only heats your home, but also quietly produces economical and eco-friendly

electrical power. Even better, what if this device could use a number of portable fuels, including propane? This may sound like home power nirvana, but if this technology lives up to its developers’ promises, it may herald a new era in residential electrical power.

Almost Heaven, Pennsylvania

I became interested in fuel cells after I purchased a piece of rural property in the Laurel Highlands about 50 miles (80 km) east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Planning to build has forced me to consider the need for electrical power. When the local utility engineer gave me the bottom line for the 3,500 foot (1.07 km) line extension, I got sticker shock.

The utility wanted over US$15,000, and that didn’t include the cost of the right of ways. Not only was it expensive, but they wanted me to pay them to cut down my beautiful trees in order to install ugly power poles. I thought that maybe underground lines might be the solution. “No problem,” the utility engineer said, “just double the price.”

I was beginning to think that my great deal on this property might not have been so great after all. There had to be a solution. I needed practical answers that would allow me to be my own power company. My search led me to Home Power magazine. I purchased the outstanding Solar3 CD-ROM and scoured its archives for ideas. I soon had some answers.

Which Do You Want First?

Bad news: the winter daily average of just over two hours of full sun here ruled out cost-effective PV power. Good news: my building site, located high on an exposed open hill, was a good candidate for wind power. My mate seemed a little amused by my scheme. With a wife’s keen insight, she asked only two things: “What do we do when the wind stops blowing?” and

Residential Fuel Cells:

20 Home Power #72 • August / September 1999

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