FuelCell Plant in the Works in Cheyenne, WY

Joanna Schroeder

A stationary fuel cell power plant to support Microsoft’s data center research project in Cheyenne, Wyoming is in the works. The power plant will use renewable biogas generated by a wastewater treatment facility as the fuel source to generate clean, carbon-neutral electricity. The project will be used by Microsoft to evaluate the effectiveness of using FuelCell Energy power plants to convert biogas to power.

“With the demand for renewable energy resources outstripping available power supplies today, Microsoft is researching new methods to help our operations become more efficient and environmentally sustainable,” said Gregg McKnight, general manager, Data Center Advanced Development at Microsoft. “We’re excited by the potential for using stationary fuel cells to capture and recycle natural byproducts like biogas. This project will study methods to provide an economical and reliable power supply for data centers that is also scalable and economical for use by other industries.”

By Spring 2013, the sub-megawatt Direct FuelCell power plant will be installed at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The fuel cell plant will provide 200 kilowatts of power for Microsoft’s Data Plant which will be housed in a modular IT pre-assembled component (ITPAC) that will house servers to recreate a data center environment. Excess power not used by the data center will be provided to the water reclamation facility to offset their electric costs. In the event of a grid outage, the Data Plant project and fuel cell plant will be configured to operate independently to provide continuous power.

Chip Bottone, President and Chief Executive Officer, FuelCell Energy, Inc. said, “Our fuel cell technology is uniquely positioned to provide what other megawatt-class power generation products can’t, which is efficiently converting renewable biogas into continuous baseload power right where the biogas is generated and in a manner that is virtually absent of pollutants. The economics of our on-site power generation solutions are well suited for data centers, including the ability to use renewable biogas as a fuel source to provide carbon neutral power.”

Partners in the project include the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power Company, Western Research Institute, the University of Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council, and Cheyenne LEADS, the economic development organization for Cheyenne, and Laramie County, Wyoming. The city of Cheyenne applied for a $1,500,000 Community Readiness grant through the Wyoming Business Council’s Business Ready Communities program but has yet to hear if the project will be awarded the grant.

biogas, Electricity, Waste-to-Energy