With its urban campus, Trinity College needs to be creative regarding ways to grow its portfolio of clean energy sources within the confines of several city blocks.

A new power-purchase agreement with FuelCell Energy of Danbury, Connecticut, will enable Trinity to work toward its sustainability goals with the College’s second fuel cell, which will be about the size of a few garden sheds.

Power and heat produced by the new 250kW solid oxide fuel cell power generation system to be installed in the north end of campus will further decrease the College’s reliance on the grid and move the College closer to net-zero carbon hydrogen.

“Trinity is committed to decreasing energy consumption and generating power locally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and peak load demands on the local utility infrastructure,” said Dan Hitchell, Trinity’s vice president for finance and operations. “The environmental and operational benefits of the FuelCell Energy technology enable us to ensure reliability and resiliency, while realizing our sustainability goals.”

The new fuel cell will join another 1.4-megawatt fuel cell on campus that generates 40 percent of the college’s electricity and steam heat. Together with solar panels and renewable energy purchases, the new equipment whittles down reliance on the grid to about 15 percent of its need.

According to the United Nations, the energy sector is the source of around three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions today. Replacing polluting coal, gas, and oil-fired power with energy from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, dramatically reduces carbon emissions.

FuelCell Energy’s solid oxide platform is optimized for efficiency and flexibility to help customers be hydrogen-ready as the energy transition unfolds. It is expected to translate to a 20 to 30 percent lower cost of hydrogen compared to lower efficiency and low-temperature electrolysis.

The new fuel cell is projected to save about $50,000 year in energy costs, amounting to $1 million over the 20-year contract, said Hitchell.

Additional benefits:

  • Flexibility. The ability to run on various fuels, including natural gas, biogas, or 100 percent hydrogen, provides flexibility in the event of fuel price fluctuations and as hydrogen becomes widely available.
  • Resiliency. The platform can be configured as part of a microgrid to provide energy security when the grid goes down.