San Marcos,
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CSUSM Commissions New Campus Fuel Cell System

By Whitney Frasier

California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) commissioned a new fuel cell system as a step toward the CSU system-wide sustainability goal of creating environmentally responsible campuses. The new system will help CSUSM meet a significant portion of the campus’s energy needs while helping reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

A fuel cell is a device that utilizes a chemical reaction to convert energy from a fuel - such as natural gas into electricity. CSUSM’s Purecell ® Model 400 fuel cells each feature a 440kW base load electric output and are extremely efficient, with a 10-year cell stack life, capability to operate independent of the power grid and noise output no louder than the sound of piano music.

The system is operated through a power purchase agreement with BioFuels Energy, LLC, an Encinitas-based company currently working to develop alternative energy projects that provide more affordable electricity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

CSUSM has also partnered with the Doosan Group, a global corporation that also owns the well-known farming and construction industry leader, the Bobcat Company, to bring the fuel cells to campus.

"With decades of experience and research in fuel cell systems, the Doosan Group is an ideal partner with a wealth of knowledge to help this venture succeed," said Linda Hawk, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services. "The benefits of partnering with Doosan and BioFuels on the fuel cell system are significant."

Compared to traditional energy sources, the Doosan Group estimates the system will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide - approximately 1.1 million pounds, the equivalent of 409 acres of forest, and nitrogen oxide - about 3,300 pounds, the equivalent output of 94 cars.

"CSUSM is one of several CSU campuses to explore fuel cell technology, but we’re the first to use the Doosan model," said Hawk. "We anticipate this system will bring much-needed energy cost savings over the term of our contract, but what it means for our environmental stewardship strategy is more exciting."

This project has been many years in the making and a great step toward renewable onsite energy generation, a goal CSUSM plans to take even further next year and beyond with solar installation and battery storage projects that will help reduce emissions even more significantly.

"I’m especially pleased of all the hard work this year from our Facilities Development and Energy Management teams that made this agreement," said Hawk. "I say this often, but it bears repeating: our campus has the finest and brightest professional minds you will find anywhere, and I’m proud to work alongside such an accomplished team."

To learn more about how CSUSM is implementing environmentally responsible strategies to preserve precious resources for future generations, visit the sustainability website.