1st Fuel Cell Arrives At City Hall

Allan Appel PhotoRigging foreman Bob Pineau and his crew were at work at 4:30 Sunday morning preparing to gently drop City Hall’s new fuel cell into place.

With Orange Street closed off to traffic between Elm and Court, the 66,000-pound gas-powered fuel cell was lowered onto Millennium Plaza behind City Hall mid-afternoon.

Pineau and his crew along with their crane, capable of lifting up to 300 tons, had done the job without a hitch.

Click here for a story on how the 400 kilowatt device is designed to free the city from a money-sapping contract for power from the adjacent Connecticut Financial Center.

And here for a story on how the project evolved.

There is a private fuel cell operational two blocks away at 360 State Street, and one at the newly rebuilt Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy. This is the city government proper’s first use of the technology.

According to Giovanni Zinn of the the city’s Office of Sustainability, the fuel cell may save the city up to $1 million in energy costs over a decade. It is being rented over that period from United Technologies.

But first the 66,000-pound cell has to be fully connected. A team of plumbers was also working on connecting some piping Sunday afternoon.

Pineau, whose company is Walker Crane and Rigging in Plainville, said the crane will be back in the coming days to help the crew hoist pipes and other equipment auxiliary to the fuel cell up to the roof of the 200 Orange Street government office building.

The cell, which is the size of small shipping container, is filling the entire plaza and is shrouded in a black tarp that cautions you not to climb on top of it.

As the guys used the powerful crane to hoist the fuel cell into place, they also lifted down the HVAC unit being replaced. For years it has sat on top of the roof of 200 Orange.

Where was it headed now?

“To the scrapyard,” Pineau said. He tightened some straps on the truck that would bear it there and said he was looking forward to getting warm and to watching the Giants beat the Packers.

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posted by: bruce on January 17, 2012  9:49am

Congrats to all involved for making this happen.  The city now has quite a few fuel cell installations—5 by my count:
  Peabody       250KW
  WPCA         200KW
  360 State       400KW
  Clemente school   400KW
  City Hall       400KW
  Total capacity = 1650KW

None of these can be considered “renewable” because they are running on fossil fuels, but they do have significant emission and efficiency benefits.  The next focus should be trying to get these power plants switched over to renewable fuels.  The WPCA seems like a pretty straightforward conversion—it can be fueled by digester gas, which is a byproduct of the water treatment process.