By Angie Herrington
A bill passed this month by the U.S. House includes $3.5 million to place a more powerful fuel cell unit at UTC's SimCenter, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., said Wednesday.
The defense appropriations bill still must pass the Senate before the funding is secured, he said.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's SimCenter since January 2006 has housed and tested a fuel cell unit that can produce 5 kilowatts of electricity, about enough to meet the energy needs of a 5,000-square-foot home, Rep. Wamp said.
Fuel cell technology will lead to cleaner and less expensive energy and could reduce the need for coal-fired power plants, he said.
Rep. Wamp said if the federal money for UTC comes through, a 100-kilowatt demonstration unit will replace the 5-kilowatt model. The new model would produce enough energy to heat and cool a 30,000-square-foot building, he said.
"The 100-kilowatt unit goes into a shipping container that fits into a parking space, yet it could heat and cool a downtown office building of five stories," Rep. Wamp said during a news conference at the SimCenter.
The goal is for the fuel cell technology to be mass produced, hopefully at a manufacturing plant that will be in the Chattanooga region, Rep. Wamp said.
Dr. David Whitfield, director of the SimCenter, said the $3.5 million would allow the SimCenter to further excel in the testing it has done with fuel cells.
"The SimCenter doesn't intend to stop its work having to do with fuel cells because we believe it supports the economic and energy goals of the nation," he said.
Rep. Wamp said the new fuel cell unit would be developed by Bloom Energy Corp. in California's Silicon Valley, which also developed the current unit being tested at the SimCenter. Bloom Energy has a partnership with Modine Manufacturing Co., which provides components for the fuel cell unit.
KR Sridhar, president and chief executive officer of Bloom Energy, said he is excited to see the second phase of the fuel cell demonstration unit being housed in Chattanooga.
"The leaders in energy will also be the leaders in economic growth," he said.
David B. Rayburn, president and chief executive officer of Modine, said the commercial implementation of fuel cell technology will create jobs.
"We wouldn't be spending the kind of money we're spending on this technology if we didn't think it was going to turn into some commercial viable opportunities for our shareholders," he said.
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WHAT IT MEANS
If the $3.5 million in federal money is secured, a more powerful fuel-cell demonstration unit will be housed and tested at the University of Tennessee's SimCenter. The device would be capable of producing 100 kilowatt of electricity, enough to meet the energy needs of a 30,000 square foot building.