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UCSD Nets $11 Million for Energy Project

UC San Diego is getting $11 million in incentives from California's Self-Generation Incentive Program for the installation of an innovative fuel cell energy generation and storage system on the La Jolla campus.

The school says the money is the largest amount ever awarded by the California Public Utilities Commission for a renewable energy project and is the nation's first advanced energy storage project to receive state incentive funds.

Byron Washom, UCSD's director of strategic energy initiatives, says renewable methane will be collected from the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant and delivered to UCSD.

"And turning it into not only electricity but also it will be part of our chilled water system to help cool our buildings," Washom said.

Washom said the fuel cell is the world's largest commercially-available system and the largest to utilize renewable methane gas as fuel.

The planned 2.8-megawatt fuel cell at UCSD will be paired with an additional 2.8-megawatt advanced energy-storage system.

Washom said the storage system will allow the university to store off-peak power and discharge the energy during peak-demand hours.

The fuel cell and storage project are expected to be completed sometime next year.

The CPUC says pairing clean renewable generation with advanced energy storage is an important strategy for transforming California's electricity system into a sustainable "smart grid."

The electrical output of the fuel cell will be used to help power UCSD's microgrid and also be stored for use during periods of highest electricity demand.

The entire fuel cell and storage project is expected to cost as much as $16 million.

The campus has one of the country's most sophisticated microgrid energy systems that generates 80 percent of the university's electricity needs with a 30-megawatt gas turbine plant and 1 megawatt of solar photovoltaic arrays.

The UCSD fuel cell and storage system will reduce carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 8,200 tons per year.

The California Air Resources Board has certified the local pollution emissions of the planned fuel cell system as an "ultra clean" electrical generation technology that is exempt from the permit requirements of air pollution control or air quality management districts.

Fuel cells produce electricity by separating the component electrons and protons of a fuel (which will be methane gas at UCSD) and forcing the electrons to travel through a circuit that converts them to electrical power.

The California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego administers the Self-Generation Incentive Program within the San Diego Gas & Electric service territory.

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