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A New Niche for Natural Gas: Fuel Cells

March 2015
Draft EIS issued for two proposed nuclear power plants in South Florida
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Instead of drawing electricity from the power grid, new research suggests that large facilities like big box stores or hospitals facilities could use natural gas-powered solid oxide fuel cells to lower their electric costs, increase power reliability, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They could even offset system costs by selling excess fuel cell-generated power back to the power grid. Such an energy future could be possible—assuming fuel cell lifespans are improved and enough systems are produced to reach economies of scale—according to a cost-benefit analysis published in the journal Fuel Cells.

If such advances are made, researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory conclude natural gas solid oxide fuel cells could play a significant role in meeting future energy demand. The technology could help meet the 10 percent increase in electricity the nation will need in the next decade. That estimate, by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, will require 68 gigawatts more generating capacity.

See the PNNL Press Release for details.

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