Image showing the front cover of the CSUEB Magazine Banner SPRING 2010 issue

SPRING 2010

Looking Ahead

Electric power generated by a fuel cell, as depicted in a simplified illustration, left, produces heat for hot water and enough electricity to supply 1,250 standard size homes for one year.

CSUEB may become home to fuel cell for student research, energy generation

BY BARRY ZEPEL

The Hayward Campus of California State University, East Bay may become one of the first colleges in Northern California to host a fuel cell, a move that would support University plans to become a center for science, technology, engineering, and math education and a demonstration site for green technology.

When he was vice president for administration and finance at Cal State Northridge in the early 2000s, President Mo Qayoumi initiated a similar, award-winning fuel cell project.

A fuel cell would benefit Cal State East Bay by serving as a research and learning tool for students and faculty members. Additionally, the waste heat generated by a cell can be converted into hot water to be used in buildings on campus.

As CSUEB’s partner in this effort, the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has proposed making the campus a future site for the placement of a $7 million fuel cell that would be provided and paid for by the public utility. It would be located at the northern tip of the campus, occupying a fenced-off space approximately 50 feet by 100 feet and featuring an information kiosk.

The fuel cell is an ultra clean, low emission, quiet, mini-power plant that uses natural gas and water to generate electricity efficiently, according to Jim Zavagno, the University’s director of Planning, Design & Construction. “This partnership with PG&E is a win-win,” he said. “The plant, while generating electricity for the public, will supply the University with hot water to heat buildings, allowing us to save on utility costs and equipment, and complements our movement to becoming a sustainable campus.” 

The installation would be capable of generating up to 1.2 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 1,250 standard size homes for one year.  Unlike the photovoltaic panels on top of several Hayward Campus buildings that generate electricity for the University, electricity generated by a fuel cell would be returned to the state’s electric grid for powering homes and businesses.

Arguments for and against placing a fuel cell at CSUEB have been presented to an administrative law judge, who is expected to issue a report in the form of a recommendation in March. This report will then be presented to the California Public Utilities Commission, which is expected to render a decision at its May meeting.

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