The irony of gathering in the icy winds of an incoming Nor’easter to witness the ribbon cutting of a state-of-the-art facility that provides “clean” heat and power to Amity Regional High School wasn’t lost on the impressive crowd of state dignitaries, school officials, residents and students that gathered to celebrate its completion. The fuel cell began providing energy to the high school in December and will soon serve as the generation source for the Town’s microgrid, which will supply power to seven municipal buildings during outages caused by storms, including Town Hall, the library, the fire station, the police department, the Department of Public Works, the town’s Senior Center and the high school.
Before cutting the ribbon, Governor Dannel P. Malloy, said, “Microgrids, and the fuel cells that are helping support them, are an essential part of our strategy to make certain that we harden our infrastructure in order to better withstand the type of catastrophic storms we have experienced in recent years. At the same time, they are also providing an efficient energy source that in the long run will help save taxpayer money.” The fuel cell is expected to save the Amity school district about $70,000 in lowered fuel and energy costs annually.
The fuel cell power plant was built and installed by FuelCell Energy of Danbury, which operates it under contract with United Illuminating. The new fuel cell, located at the rear of Amity Regional High can generate up to 2.2 megawatts of clean, environmentally friendly, renewable energy. According to Kurt Goddard, vice president of investor relations with FuelCell Energy, “the unit converts clean natural gas into electricity and heat through a highly efficient electrochemical process that is free of combustion and creates virtually no unhealthy emissions that are released into the air”. The continuous, clean power being generated means no smog; acid rain; or particulate matter which aggravates asthma.
Charles Dumais, superintendent of the Amity Regional School District, said having the fuel cell on the grounds of the high school provides an invaluable education opportunity, particularly to students in its advanced placement manufacturing and environmental science classes. “We view this project as a triple win including clean power for the community, reduced financial impact on the district, and educational opportunities for our students from this innovative fuel cell power generation,” Dumais said.
Woodbridge was chosen in 2013 as one of nine pilot projects in the state for the installation of a microgrid. The DEEP program is designed to “develop innovative ways to keep critical buildings powered during electric grid outages,” said the official press release at the time. Woodbridge received its share of the state money — $3 million — a year later. Construction of the fuel cell started last spring.