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PR- 040-04
February 26, 2004


Fuel Cells Being Used to Convert Waste Gas into Energy, Reduce Plant Emissions

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Christopher O. Ward and New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and CEO Eugene W. Zeltmann today announced an innovative pollution abatement program at the City’s wastewater treatment plants that uses fuel cells to convert waste gas into energy to help power the facilities.  The program reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and helps eliminate the release of noxious gas into the air.  This process is expected to eliminate nearly 170 tons of regulated emissions and more than 9,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, and reduce fuel oil consumption by 3,000 barrels a year.

The announcement was held at DEP’s 26th Ward wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn where NYPA has installed two 200-kilowatt (kw) fuel cells that are currently providing a significant portion of the facility’s electricity needs. The two fuel cells are among eight that NYPA partnered with DEP to install at four wastewater treatment plants in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island.

“We are committed to implementing environmentally beneficial technologies that will improve the health and safety of New Yorkers, and decrease our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Mayor Bloomberg.  “This innovative technology is a win-win.  It reduces our energy costs and instead of burning off and releasing noxious fumes into communities, we are recycling these gases and converting them into electricity.”

“Clean air, safe drinking water, green buildings, and energy savings are part of DEP’s mission in response to Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to make New York City a national leader in its attention to the environment,” said DEP Commissioner Christopher O. Ward. “This is particularly true today, as we implement advances that allow us to adopt environmentally beneficial technologies.”

“Governor Pataki’s energy policy has signaled a green light for green power in New York State,” said Eugene Zeltmann, President and CEO of NYPA.  “Thanks to his leadership, the New York Power Authority has doubled its annual investments in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies.”

Each of the eight fuel cells are designed to operate on anaerobic digester gas (ADG), a by-product of the wastewater treatment process, primarily made up of methane and carbon dioxide.  The fuel cells harness the ADG to produce electricity and thermal energy through a chemical reaction rather than combustion.  The eight fuel cells, in harnessing the waste gas, will annually eliminate about 170 tons of regulated emissions, and more than 9,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.

Fuel cells generate millions of kilowatt-hours of electricity releasing minimal emissions into the atmosphere, compared to pollutants released by conventionally fueled operations in the same time period.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, fuel cell emissions are so clean that they are exempted from many Clean Air Act permitting requirements.

At the 26th Ward, two complete fuel cell systems – cooling modules, power modules and a gas-processing unit have been installed on a concrete pad built near the plant’s dewatering building.  The 26th Ward plant opened in 1944 and its dry weather treatment capacity is 85 million gallons a day.  It serves a population of nearly 285,000 in the eastern section of Brooklyn, near Jamaica Bay.

In addition to the two fuel cells installed at the 26th Ward plant, DEP and NYPA have installed two other fuel cells at the Red Hook wastewater treatment plant, also in Brooklyn, one fuel cell in Staten Island at the Oakwood Beach plant, and three fuel cells at the Hunts Point plant in the Bronx. 

The cost of the fuel cell program is $13 million.  NYPA provided $10.5 million and The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and theU.S. Department of Energy provided more than $2.5 million to co-fund the initiative.


Edward Skyler / Jordan Barowitz   (212) 788-2958

Charles Sturcken   (DEP)
(718) 595-6600

Peter Barden (NYPA)   (914) 390-8160

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