Long Beach Apartments Install Fuel Cells, Solar Panels

The nonprofit firm LINC Housing installed two fuel cells at the Long Beach-based Palace Hotel, in addition to solar panels, to help the building's energy footprint.

August 12, 2011
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

LINC Housing, the developer of the Palace Hotel, a renovation project that will provide apartments for foster youth aging out of the system, has gone a step further than solar panels in its efforts to make the property sustainable. This week the nonprofit, which specializes in building and managing affordable housing in California, installed two fuel cells at the Long Beach-based Palace Hotel.

At their most basic, fuel cells convert chemical energy into electricity or heat via a chemical reaction. The two cells at the Palace Hotel are five-kilowatt ClearEdge5 cells developed by ClearEdge Power, an Oregon-based manufacturer of high-efficiency stationary fuel cells. The new cells, based on ClearEdge’s proprietary technology, will allow LINC Housing to convert natural gas into electricity and heat.

According to the manufacturer, the cells reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 35 percent to 40 percent compared to ordinary electricity production. Roughly the size of a standard refrigerator and incorporating a system for real-time remote monitoring, the fuel cells also reduce the creation of pollutants associated with making electricity, such as volatile organic compounds, ash and particulates.

In addition to the fuel cells, the building also has photovoltaic solar panels. The combination of these alternative energies should allow the property to generate the majority of the its electric demand on site. The fuel cells will also generate enough heat to meet nearly all of the hot water demand for the entire building.

“The Palace Hotel renovation is just one example of how continuous power systems can be applied to meet the heat and energy demands of commercial buildings,” Mike Upp, vice president of marketing at ClearEdge Power, told Commercial Property Executive. “In fact, commercial buildings with high heat and energy demands like schools, multifamily housing and hotels are all in a position to benefit from fuel cell technologies.”

Funding for the fuel cells was provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the National Trust Loan Fund. The Palace Hotel renovation, a collaboration of the City of Long Beach, the Long Beach Housing Development Company, LINC Housing and United Friends of the Children, features 13 studio apartments, a manager’s unit, common areas, offices where resident will receive UFC services, as well as retail space on the first floor that may employ some of the residents. The first residents are expected to take occupancy in early October.