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WATT Fuel Cell and Peoples Natural Gas Achieve New Milestone for In-Home, Clean Electricity Generation System

18 Feb 2021

WATT Fuel Cell ("WATT"), a leading developer and manufacturer of small-scale solid oxide fuel cell stacks and systems, has achieved its latest breakthrough in clean power generation with the successful development of its Imperium™ 1.5kW hybrid fuel cell system for residential use. 

The new and advanced hybrid fuel cell system, developed as part of WATT's collaboration with Peoples Natural Gas, the natural gas brand of Essential Utilities, ("Peoples") cleanly and efficiently converts natural gas to electricity through an electrochemical reaction, turning a home into a clean power micro-grid.  Imperium™ works in concert with power from the grid and can be integrated with solar generation and battery storage, creating a hybrid system that flexes to the needs of the customer and the grid.  It's a cost-effective, clean technology that's destined to be a major contributor to successfully evolving our power generation systems while providing for critical power needs at home when service disruptions occur.

"Energy systems are being advanced, and decentralized, to help align our most important environmental and economic needs," said Caine Finnerty, President and COO of WATT.  "This is a breakthrough for our fuel cell technology, to combine it with other power generation sources and solutions in a hybrid system.  Imperium™ eliminates traditional combustion-based energy production, and therefore reduces emissions, and delivers affordable power right in your home."   Finnerty said one of Imperium™'s primary benefits is the ability to "load follow" – it cycles on and off to manage its own power generation with energy storage, renewable solar power and power from the grid.  "It's a creatively engineered, intelligent integration of multiple technologies to provide a clean, economical and holistic solution. When it's sunny, use solar, and store some of the excess power for a rainy day. But when you have multiple rainy days in a row, the fuel cell will take care of your energy needs."

Finnerty pointed to WATT's vertically integrated core technology as a significant advantage for the company.  It has enabled rapid development of a new cell technology to increase system efficiency and drive to a commercially viable price point.  "WATT's philosophy is if you don't control the core technology then it's very difficult to adapt and innovate to keep up with a continuously evolving energy market."

WATT has tested two configurations of its new hybrid platform:

  • the first is based on a readily available and proven standalone inverter, solar maximum power point tracker ("MPPT") and energy storage. 
  • the second uses "off the shelf" solar microinverters to directly convert the raw dc power from the fuel cell to a 240V AC grid feed. 

WATT and Peoples are now focused on piloting and commercializing the fuel cell systems.

"At Peoples, we're focused on providing outstanding service for our customers today, and we also look forward to new, cleaner technologies and solutions," said Jeff Nehr, Peoples Vice President, Business Development. "Our partnership with WATT and the successful production of the first hybrid residential fuel cell system marks a key milestone on our journey to a cleaner energy future that's also affordable for our customers.  We look forward to piloting Imperium™systems in homes in 2021."

Following the field pilots, WATT will certify and commercially launch the systems.  "WATT's focus going forward is on commercializing the systems and scaling operations to support Peoples and the broader residential market," noted Rich Romer, CEO of WATT. 

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