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Photos: World's largest fuel cell park is open for business

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FuelCell Energy has unveiled what it says is the largest fuel cell park in the world: a 11.2 megawatt project that can provide electricity to 20,000 homes and only takes up one acre of land.

A 11.2 megawatt fuel cell production park -- the world's largest, according to FuelCell Energy -- is now operating in Daegu City, South Korea. Unlike other utility-scale renewable energy installations such as wind and solar farms, fuel cell parks have a small land footprint, which makes it ideally suited for countries with little land to spare.

The fuel cell park developed by FuelCell Energy and Korean utility POSCO Power is located on one acre of land and can generate electricity for about 20,000 South Korean homes. A concentrating solar power plant of similar capacity would occupy about 55 acres, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.  Another nifty feature is the fuel cell park's scalability. The Daegu City fuel cell park includes four 2.8 MW Direct FuelCell power plants. The electric utility can add more capacity as needed.

Fuel cells combine hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to create electricity and heat through a chemical reaction. The fuel cells are able to produce electricity without the conventional combustion reaction. Typically, the hydrogen is extracted from a fossil fuel such as natural gas or a biogas. This particular fuel cell park will use natural gas.

FuelCell Energy manufactured the core fuel cell components in the United States. POSCO Power made the supporting balance of the plant in South Korea. The fuel cell power plants within the park were sold to investor The Cobalt Sky, which in turn, will sell the electricity back to the utility under a long-term power purchase agreement. The high-grade heat generated at the park will be sold to the local municipality for its wastewater treatment facility.

Photos: FuelCell Energy, Cobalt Sky

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure