Fuel cells are poised to light up your life

As gas prices have continued to climb, there has been an ever-broadening discussion of the steps that America must take to reduce its dependence on oil. Unfortunately, however, the general consensus seems to be that the situation is hopeless, the only real alternative to gas is pricey biofuels, and we should probably just throw in the towel. Consequently, it was with a happy heart that I recently read about a Whole Foods Market that is opening in Glastonbury, Connecticut.

I'm not a huge fan of Whole Foods (they're a little overpriced), and I'm not the biggest fan of Glastonbury (one of my sisters lives there, so I visit it a fair bit. Nice place, but a little boring). Still, this story cheered me up more than words can say. You see, this morning, when the manager turned on the lights, most of the energy that powered the store didn't come from the electrical grid. It came from a fuel cell.

Produced by UTC Power, the fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to make water. In the process, it produces enough energy to cover half of the 46,000 square foot store's electrical and heating needs, while providing all the store's hot water. It also creates considerably less pollution than conventional power plants, and UTC estimates that Whole Foods' use of a fuel cell has generated reductions in carbon dioxide that make it comparable to planting 21 acres of forest. In terms of reducing nitrogen oxide reductions, they claim that the fuel cell is comparable to removing 100 cars from the highway per year. Another benefit is that all of the fuel cell power is produced on-site, which means that the Whole Foods could continue to operate in the case of a power outage.