The installation of a 400-kilowatt fuel cell at 360 State Street, a 700,000 sq. ft. mixed-use development under construction in downtown New Haven, Conn., has created quite a buzz in environmental circles. It’s the first large-scale residential installation of a fuel cell worldwide, according to Fuel Cells 2000, a non-profit environmental organization.

Currently being built by Boston-based Suffolk Construction Co., 360 State Street consists of a 25-story residential tower with 500 rental units sitting atop a four-story parking garage and ground floor retail. The fuel cell, a renewable power source, will provide combustion-free power to the 500 residential units, common areas and retail spaces within the building. It is expected to meet nearly 100% of the building’s electric needs as well as provide thermal energy for space heating, domestic hot water and the swimming pool.

In addition, the application of the fuel cell at 360 State Street is estimated to reduce the building’s carbon emissions by 790 metric tons annually when compared with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s eGrid emissions factor for non-baseload generation in the New England Independent System Operator (ISO) utility system.

Model for multifamily sector
“On-site fuel cell technology represents the future of electricity generation in this country,” says Bruce Becker, president of Becker + Becker, the building’s developer and architect. “Traditionally, large capacity fuel cells are utilized at schools, hospitals, and other energy-intensive facilities. But multifamily residential buildings represent a perfect — heretofore uncultivated — opportunity for fuel cell technology because of their ability to continually utilize the fuel cell’s process heat in the form of hot water and space heating demand.”

Lise Dondy, president of the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF), believes that 360 State Street has brought to light a new application for fuel cells — with the potential to grow fuel cell manufacturing jobs in the state while also having a positive environmental impact.

A certified LEED Platinum Plan, 360 State Street is the first project in the nation to be recognized by the U.S. Green Building Council in the Pilot Neighborhood Development Program for exemplifying the principles of smart growth, urbanism, and green design. New Haven currently has 12 LEED certified buildings, second only to Boston in New England.

Under the microscope
The building’s performance will be tracked in real time and available publicly via a web portal and lobby display, showing electric, natural gas, renewable energy, and water consumption patterns. Utilizing the latest innovations in smart grid technology, tenants will be able to track their own water, electric, and thermal energy usage. Tenants also will be able to participate in a so-called demand response program that helps shed load from the utility grid when it is peaking.

The 360 State Street fuel cell required an undisclosed upfront investment by the primary investor in the building, The Multi-Employer Property Trust (MEPT), a union pension fund. The project received a grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund to cover nearly half the cost of the fuel cell unit. This assistance, in addition to the annual energy savings the fuel cell will produce, allow for a payback of 5.5 years.

Located adjacent to the State Street train station, a major commuter gateway, the mixed-use development also is accessible by all three main Connecticut Transit bus stops and is within blocks of Yale University, schools as well as local restaurants and shops.

Bozzuto Management Co. manages 360 State Street and is now accepting reservations for residences ranging from studios to three-bedroom penthouses with terraces. The first move-ins will occur in early August.