News Release

Release Date: September 12, 2017

NETL Helping to Bring Fuel Cell System to Pittsburgh


The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), as part of its support for the City of Pittsburgh’s initiative to become a global leader in clean energy planning, modeling, and implementation, is supporting the installation and testing of a prototype fuel cell system in Pittsburgh.

FuelCell Energy, Inc.—a company specializing in delivery of clean, innovative, and affordable fuel cell solutions to energy needs—under a cooperative agreement funded by NETL, will install the prototype fuel cell system for testing at the NRG YIELD facility in Pittsburgh.

A fuel cell converts the chemical energy from a fuel into electricity through an electrochemical reaction of hydrogen-containing fuel with oxygen. The highly efficient fuel cell process emits virtually no pollutants because of the absence of combustion. The modular nature of the fuel cell shows promise in enabling clean, distributed power generation, which supports the City of Pittsburgh’s interest in deploying clean and resilient energy systems throughout Pittsburgh.

Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Power Generation Unit

According to FuelCell Energy, its solid oxide fuel cell power generation technology operates at a high rate of thermal efficiency and the Pittsburgh plant will operate on natural gas, although it is able to use coal syngas, renewable biogas, or directed biogas. They note that while this prototype will be used solely to generate electricity, future offerings will provide thermal services – operating as a combined heat and power (CHP) system – and will potentially have energy storage functionality.

For more than two years, NETL has been teaming with the City of Pittsburgh under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to advance clean energy initiatives in the city. By working closely with local representatives of the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne Light company, Peoples Natural Gas, and NRG YIELD, NETL and the City have made great strides in identifying new opportunities for advancement and laying the groundwork for the City to transform itself into a “Clean Energy City of the Future,” with all its attendant benefits of lower energy costs, reduced environmental impacts, and resiliency.

NRG Yield, which will host the fuel cell in its Pittsburgh facility, owns a diversified portfolio of contracted renewable and conventional generation and thermal infrastructure assets in the United States, including fossil fuel, solar and wind power generation facilities that provide the capacity to support more than two million American homes and businesses. Their thermal infrastructure assets provide steam, hot water and/or chilled water, and in some instances electricity, to commercial businesses, universities, hospitals and governmental units in multiple locations.

The new prototype fuel cell system project is a key part of an overall clean energy initiative guided by the MOU that NETL signed with the City of Pittsburgh to transform how energy is generated, used, and distributed with the city. NETL, a Department of Energy National Laboratory specializing in clean energy research, is lending the city its expertise, innovations, and advice for moving toward the City’s energy efficiency, emissions reductions, and resiliency goals.

NETL Director Dr. Grace Bochenek, who signed the MOU with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto just before the city began its bicentennial celebration in 2016 said, NETL will continue to partner with the city to help make Pittsburgh a Clean Energy City of the Future while fulfilling the Laboratory’s mission to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations.