Energy diversity

With all the attention given to the state’s announcement earlier this month that it had awarded its first offshore wind project to feed 200 megawatts into the Connecticut grid, another milestone was almost overlooked — the first-time awards for fuel-cell operations.

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s selection of Deepwater Wind was rightly the big news, both because of the scope of the project and its potential to generate jobs during a construction schedule that could span several years. New London’s own State Pier is expected to play a major role as a staging site for personnel and materials shuttling to wind-farm construction areas off the Northeast coast.

But in preparing for its most recent selection of renewable and clean power projects, we had urged DEEP to also consider choosing some fuel-cell projects. In the prior two clean-energy procurements in 2015 and 2017, DEEP had opted not to select any fuel-cell proposals, suggesting some internal bias against the technology at the energy and environmental agency.

The oversight seemed odder still because another state agency, the Department of Economic and Community Development, had supported the growth of the fuel-cell industry with grants and loans, recognizing its potential to generate well-paying, high-tech jobs. The Connecticut Mirror reported that Fuel Cell Energy, headquartered in Danbury, laid off 17 percent of its workforce and missed growth targets after failing to win any bids in 2017.

DEEP corrected that omission in selecting four fuel-cell projects out of the 20 proposals it had received. Among them were two projects proposed by Fuel Cell Energy, a 14.8-megawatt project in Derby and a 7.8-megawatt project in Hartford.

The state also selected a 20-megawatt project known as the Energy Innovation Park in New Britain, proposed by Doosan Fuel Cell America, and a 10-megawatt project planned in Colchester by Bloom Energy.

While technically not a form of renewable power — the fuel cells use natural gas to create the hydrogen necessary to produce the electricity — it is a clean energy source that produces as byproducts heat and water, both which can be utilized.

Such projects will continue to diversify the state’s energy portfolio and reduce greenhouse gas production, both laudable goals.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Pat Richardson, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, retired Day editor Lisa McGinley, Managing Editor Tim Cotter and Staff Writer Julia Bergman. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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