ClearEdge touts home fuel cell over solar panels

If fuel cell vehicles can have celebrity owners, why not fuel cell-powered

ClearEdge Power said Jackie Autry, former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner
and widow of Gene Autry, is a customer
of its residential fuel cell system, which supplies both electricity and hot

(Credit: ClearEdge Power)

Stationary fuel cell makers, including Bloom Energy and FuelCell Energy,
focus mainly on business customers. But ClearEdge Power is targeting its box,
about the size of a refrigerator, to both homes and small businesses. The
company has sold about 200 units in California, with more than half of the fuel
cells installed in 34 California businesses, according to a representative.

The price for a five-kilowatt unit is $56,000 before installation. ClearEdge
Power is initially marketing to consumers in California, who receive up to
$17,500 per five-kilowatt unit in financial incentives from utility rebates and
federal tax credits. Commercial customers can get as much as $27,500 in
incentives, according to the company.

For customers with big electricity bills, the fuel cell will cut monthly
bills significantly, with Autry projected to get a pay back in between five to
seven years, according to a report in the Desert
. At an event to show the fuel cells at Autry’s house on Friday, company
executives said they are working on a smaller, three-kilowatt unit and
anticipate prices to go down with higher volume, according to the article.

The fuel cell runs on natural gas, which is “reformed” and passed through a
fuel cell, generating both electricity and heat. In addition to five kilowatts
of electricity, one unit can generate 20,000 BTUs of thermal heat an hour at 150
degrees Fahrenheit.

ClearEdge Power said residential fuel cells are a good alternative to solar
panels for onsite power because they take less space, don’t depend on good sun
exposure, and, as a combined heat and power product, are efficient. Its fuel
cell is 40 percent efficient in converting fuel into electricity and 50 percent
efficient in heat, making it 90 percent efficient.

More commercial customers, such as office buildings and supermarkets, are
using fuel cells because they provide reliable power. Fuel cell companies are
primarily marketing products in states which have incentives for cleaner sources
of energy.

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