CHEYENNE — Microsoft's fuel cell demonstration project
in Cheyenne, dubbed the DataPlant, has moved a step closer to implementation with the selection of a provider for the fuel cells, FuelCell Energy Inc
Last May, Microsoft announced their commitment to become carbon neutral beginning in 2013. The DataPlant project will utilize biogas at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne to run a fuel cell power plant which will in turn will provide 200 kilowatts of power for Microsoft's DataPlant — an onsite 'mini data center' that will recreate a data center environment. The DataPlant project will enable Microsoft to evaluate the effectiveness of direct fuel cell (DFC) technology to power future sustainable data centers.
Stationary DFC power plants convert a fuel source into ultra-clean electricity and usable high temperature heat suitable for making steam. DFC plants are fuel flexible, capable of operating on clean and abundant natural gas, renewable biogas, directed biogas and other fuels including propane. The fuel cell generates electricity and heat electrochemically. Due to the absence of combustion, virtually no pollutants are emitted. The almost complete absence of nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SOx) and particulate matter is why DFC plants are termed ultra-clean.
DFC plants can be located where biogas is generated and directly use the biogas with only minimal cleaning of the gas. Biogas contains humidity, sulfur and carbon dioxide (CO2). Prior to being used as a fuel source for the direct fuel cell, the humidity and sulfur must be removed, but the DFC technology does not require the removal of the CO2. This is a cost advantage, as pipeline quality biogas, also termed directed biogas, must have the CO2 removed prior to being injected in the gas pipeline, which is an energy-intensive process and adds cost.
Generating both clean electricity and usable heat from the same unit of fuel enhances efficiency and reduces emissions. DFC power plants designed and manufactured by FuelCell Energy, Inc. have the highest electrical efficiency of any similar-sized baseload power generation.
The project has earned support from a diverse coalition of local entities: Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power Company, Western Research Institute, the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council, and Cheyenne LEADS, the economic development organization for Cheyenne and Laramie County, Wyoming.
The city of Cheyenne applied for a $1,500,000 Community Readiness grant through the Wyoming Business Council's Business Ready Communities program earlier this year to fund the needed infrastructure to support the Data Plant project.
"Although still in the application phase and the final decision has yet to be made, this is a great project and an example of our broad efforts in advanced energy technologies and clean carbon conversion in Wyoming," said Bob Jensen, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council. "Our board approved this application and it will be voted on by the State Loan and Investment Board December 6 for its final decision."
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