Perhaps leading the technology curve for other maritime applications, the U.S. Coast Guard has adopted use of fuel cells for power at a station in Massachusetts. FuelCell Energy Inc., based in Danbury, Conn., will deliver a 250-kW direct FuelCell power plant to the Coast Guard Air Station at Bourne on Cape Cod. The generator will supply power for heating and electricity for the base's barracks, hangars and administrative offices. The project is sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and Keyspan Inc. The power plant will be installed during the first part of 2002.
Fuel cell technology produces energy without combustion, in other words, power that is virtually pollution free. By combining hydrogen with the oxygen in the air, fuel cells generate electricity and heat. (The exhaust is water and traces of carbon dioxide.) Several companies produce fuel cells commercially; yet deriving power in this manner remains expensive. Proponents of fuel cell technology argue that investment (and support of fuel cells as by the Coast Guard and other agencies) will bring this power within reach for other basic applications, including vessel power plants.