The Power Plant in Your Basement; July 1999; Scientific American Magazine; by Lloyd; 6 Page(s)
As deregulation of the electric utility industry dissolves the monopoly once held by most power generators, one repercussion has been increasingly long distances between some buyers and sellers of electricity. Nevertheless, within a decade or two, some customers may find themselves living in a home whose electricity comes not from a generating plant tens, hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away but rather from a refrigerator-size power station right in their own basements or backyards. Moreover, not just homes but shops, small businesses, hotels, apartment buildings and possibly factories may all be powered in the same way: by fuel cells in the range of five to 500 kilowatts.
Companies and industrial research laboratories in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea and the U.S. have aggressive fuel-cell development efforts under way, and at least a few are already selling the units. In fact, a subsidiary of United Technologies has been offering fuel cells of up to 200 kilowatts for almost a decade. They have sold about 170 units, many of which are used for generation of both heat and power at industrial facilities or for backup power. They are also increasingly being used at wastewater treatment plants and in "green" facilities, which showcase environmentally sensitive technologies and design.