Environmental Protection

First Fuel Cell to Power Residential Building in New York Installed in Roosevelt Island

 The Octagon, a LEED Silver 500-unit apartment community on Roosevelt Island, made green history by becoming the first residential building in the State of New York to be powered and heated by a 400 kW fuel cell from UTC Power.

The project was supported by $1.2 million in financial incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The fuel cell arrived on Roosevelt Island this winter and is now operating at full capacity.

"Roosevelt Island is a place where progressive green initiatives are at the forefront of our smart growth plans. We are proud of our island partners, including Becker + Becker, who are contributing to a greener Island and a cleaner City," said Leslie Torres, president and CEO of the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the New York State Public Benefit Corporation responsible for the development and operation of Roosevelt Island.

The fuel cell, a PureCell System Model 400, is a combined heat and power (CHP) system that converts natural gas to electricity and heat through a combustion-free, electrochemical process to provide power and heat to meet the majority of the apartment building's energy demand. The energy-efficiency achieved by the fuel cell is significantly higher than the energy received from the grid and emissions are negligible. Additionally, the fuel cell's process heat is captured to satisfy the building's space heating and domestic water requirements.

"On-site fuel cell technology represents the future of electricity generation in this country," said Bruce Becker, president of Becker + Becker, the building's developer and architect. "Traditionally, large-capacity fuel cells are utilized at schools, hospitals, and other energy-intensive facilities, but multifamily residential buildings represent a perfect -- heretofore uncultivated -- opportunity for fuel cell technology because of their ability to continually utilize the fuel cell's process heat in the form of hot water and space heating demand." The application of the fuel cell at The Octagon is estimated to reduce the carbon emissions of the site by 790 metric tons annually.

NYSERDA's award-winning CHP Demonstration Program helps showcase pioneering fuel cell projects, such as The Octagon. To encourage others to adopt fuel cell technology, NYSERDA's $21.6 million Customer-Sited Tier Fuel Cell Program provides an incentive toward the cost of fuel cell installations, plus payments over the first three years of operation based on power produced. Funding is awarded to applications received on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Fuel cells present a promising technology that NYSERDA strongly supports," said Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO of NYSERDA. "I commend The Octagon for the innovative energy and environmental investments throughout its facility for which all residents can be proud, and look forward to partnering on future clean energy projects."

In addition to The Octagon, a variety of facilities around the state are installing or operating fuel cells funded partially by NYSERDA, including a Price Chopper store (Colonie), a Coca-Cola Refreshments bottling facility (Elmsford), and the East Rochester Central School District.

With its breakthrough utilization of fuel cell power and range of other efficiency measures, such as a 50 kW solar photovoltaic array, The Octagon has become a nationally recognized model for green building. It is a certified LEED Silver community, consuming approximately 35 percent less energy than required by code.

The Octagon fuel cell required a significant upfront investment by the building’s primary investor, MEPT, a Union Pension fund committed to responsible property investing. The project received a grant from NYSERDA to cover approximately half the cost of the fuel cell unit. Additionally, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the project will qualify for a federal refundable tax credit to cover approximately 30 percent of the installation cost. This assistance, in addition to the annual energy savings the fuel cell will produce, create a payback of approximately five years.

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