Fuel cells to help power plant

Naugatuck Mayor N. Warren ‘Pete’ Hess, right, speaks in front of the new fuel cells at the Naugatuck wastewater treatment plant Oct. 18 as Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Ron Pugliese looks on. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — The borough’s wastewater treatment plant has a new, green way to get its electricity.

Officials unveiled three fuel cells during a ceremony Oct. 18 at the borough-owned plant at 500 Cherry Street Ext.

Fuel cells work by stripping the hydrocarbons out of the natural gas and combining hydrogen with oxygen to produce energy. The only emission is steam. The three fuel cells can generate up to 12,089 megawatt hours per year.

“By converting our energy supply here at the water treatment plant from the electric grid to distributed energy that is more reliable, cleaner, and less expensive, we are doing the smart thing for today and the next generation of our clean water ratepayers,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess.

The fuel cells were built by South Windsor-based Doosan Fuel Cell America. They were installed through a collaboration with Eversource Energy, which installed a natural gas line to the plant, Woodbridge-based Advanced Energy Efficiencies, and Veolia North America, the private company that operates the treatment plant.

Installing the fuel cells didn’t cost the borough anything, Hess said.

The borough signed a 20-year contract with Doosan to buy electricity produced by the cells.

According to the contract, the borough will buy about 12,000 megawatt hours of energy per year.

The borough will pay 6.17 cents per kilowatt hour the first year, the contract states. After the first year, the price is guaranteed to be 1.5 cents less than the current rate charged by local utility providers.

According to the contract, Doosan pays for all the upfront costs, including equipment, installation, natural gas and service.

According to Hess, Eversource extended the gas line to the plant at no cost to the borough as well.

Hess said the project is expected to save the borough $4 million over 20 years.

The plan to install fuel cells was approved in July 2016 as one way to try and bring the plant closer to being in compliance with regulations set forth by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Hess said the fuel cells will also save 3 million pounds of carbon dioxide from going into the air, reduce nearly 10 million pounds of nitrogen oxide, and conserve 4 million gallons of water. Using fuel cells is the equivalent of planting 350 acres of trees every year and removing 250 cars from the road each year, according to Hess.

“We want to do this to improve the quality of our air and water, improve our local health, attract private sector investment and new families, and save money,” Hess said.

Advanced Energy Efficiencies Managing Partner Gary Hale echoed Hess’ comments, saying the fuel cells are a positive on many levels.

“For whatever reasons you might have — you like clean air, you like saving money, you like attracting investment to your community — this project is a winner,” Hale said.