Fuel cells are self-contained power generation devices that are able to produce reliable electricity for residential, commercial, industrial and transportation applications. A fuel cell can convert hydrogen directly into electricity that can be used to power an electric car, for example, or a home.
What Are the Benefits?
In fuel cells, the use of hydrogen produces fewer greenhouse gases than does burning fossil fuels. Fuel cells convert energy efficiently, which helps conserve energy resources. And a byproduct of this electro-chemical process is pure water—a clear benefit for the environment.
However, hydrogen—a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas—is not found freely in nature. It must be extracted from other substances.
Before fuel cells can achieve widespread use in vehicle or stationary-power markets, hydrogen as a fuel will have to be readily available.
None of this will happen overnight. Hydrogen will become part of the world's energy supply step by step as technical challenges are overcome and market forces create new opportunities. This could take decades.
What Chevron Is Doing
Chevron Energy Solutions, a Chevron subsidiary, developed a project that included the first megawatt-class fuel cell in California, at Alameda County's Santa Rita Jail, the fifth-largest county detention facility in the nation. The fuel cell provides high-quality power with ultra-low emissions. Heat-recovery cogeneration increases efficiency by capturing exhaust heat, which can be used to provide heat and power for the buildings. It operates quietly, it involves no combustion and it reduces power purchases by 80 percent during peak-demand summer months. In 2012, the fuel cell was incorporated as a key component of the Santa Rita Jail's Smart Grid project.
Updated: April 2013