Clean fuel for Shelton schools

Shelton High School may be getting a new energy source, which is renewable and could ultimately save the Board of Education $100,000 between 2016-2017.

The Shelton Board of Education listened to Jay Polydys, founder and partner of Total Energy Connections; discuss the benefits of installing an eight foot wide fuel cell manufactured by DOOSAN. The fuel cell would be placed behind the high school.

Polydys said the fuel cell would be placed behind the high school, be cost efficient, quiet and provide renewable energy. He also provided information to the BOE that explained how the fuel cell works.

The fact sheet from DOOSAN stated that the fuel cell is an electrochemical device that combines hydrogen fuel and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. The cell operates without combustion, which is why it is pollution free.

The information also stated that the fuel produced is converted directly to electricity and heat. Its total system efficiency can be much higher than internal combustion engines; consequently, extracting more energy from the same amount of fuel.

A fuel cell has no moving parts, making it a quiet and reliable source of power. Polydys explained the financial benefit to the school.

“Essentially the formula developed is roughly $100,000 in savings in the 2016-2017 year alone, Polydys said. “We’re moving ahead quickly to get this delivered, installed and commissioned prior to December 31  because part of the economics of why the fuel cell works so well is because the PPA provider, Constellation, gets the federal tax credits, which is 30 percent.”

Construction cost for the project is $2.7 million, paid by Constellation. The maintenance is fully included in the 20 year contract and DOOSAN will come out four times a year to make sure the unit is serviced and working fine. He said after ten years there is an inner core unit that gets exchanged, at no additional cost to the school.

The high school was reviewed over its 36 month history and deemed appropriate for the installation of the energy cell because it is cost effective, saving money for the high school alone.

Shelton high school consumes 3.6 million kilowatts of energy each year.

“The fuel cell is going to take care of 100 percent of the energy," Polydys said.

He added that a UI bill will be nonexistent and that additional power will be sold back to the grid and come back to the school as a credit at the end of the year. However, Constellation will be charging the school for the fuel cell power, but at a lower cost.

Incidentally, Constellation not only benefits from the selling the renewable energy to the school, but also by governments credits, which are not renewed by Congress and might not come back next year, Polydys said.

Polydys said natural gas runs the fuel cell. It's more cost effective to run natural gas verses retail natural gas, which currently is what's used to run the high school. He also said that since it's a renewable energy, the transmission and distribution fees will be eliminated.

BOE member, Faith Hack, was concerned if the fuel cell is noisy.

Polydys said the fuel cell is very silent. He said downtown New Haven near City Hall is a DOOSAN Fuel Cell, and there is one Hamden High School in the center of the complex. He also compared DOOSAN with other company's manufacturing fuel cells.

“It's very quiet, very clean. The nice thing about the DOOSAN Fuel Cell versus the other

manufactured here in Connecticut is this is 400 KW; the other manufacturer in Connecticut is 1.4 Kilowatts; it would never work in a project this size,” Polydys said. The DOOSAN brings more applications. If somewhere down the road as a city we decide to potentially move into a microgrid opportunity, it's expandable.”

Constellation will own and fund the fuel cell. DOOSAN will manufacture and install it. Constellation will charge for the electricity, which will be significantly lower.

There was also concern whether the unit gives off heat to the surrounding environment, but Polydys said it is one of the cleanest energy around. He said the unit is a very well made renewable energy. He said DOOSAN has done lighting projects for Derby High School, Derby Middle School, and Shelton Town Hall.

The project was approved at the Board of Alderman meeting the next day on April 28. Board Member Stanley Kudej (R) Second Ward said there was a brief discussion before the approval.

Kudej confirmed that the fuel cell was strictly for Shelton High and will cut cost for electricity.  He said that although he is not as familiar with how it works, he believes the town would save money. He believes there was a lot of research into the project prior to bringing it before the board. He said he trusts Mayor Mark Lauretti's decision to support the project. He said the Mayor takes a lot of time and effort before making a decision.

“It wasn't something that was rash to judgment; they've been working on this for quite a while and we were assured that it was going to be something that was beneficial,” Kudej said. “The prospect of further expanding the program because where the high school is situated is where we have the police station and ambulance corner right in the center of the emergency program. The fuel cell will provide the electricity and energy in case we have a catastrophic electrical problem. If the city shuts down, that area is probably going to wind up being center of communication in the City.”