An upstate New York dairy producer has been recognized for its successful installation of fuel cell technology on its dairy farms. An on-site liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) fueled fuel cell was provided by Plug Power Inc. for Wagner Farms, a 300-cow dairy farm in Eagle Mills, Rensselaer County.

Fuel cells offer reliable, efficient energy generation by using hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity with little or no pollution or noise. LPG fuel cells use a reforming unit to extract hydrogen from propane fuel before transporting it into the electricity-producing fuel cell stack. The only by-products of the fuel cell are heat, clean water and a small amount of carbon dioxide.

The fuel cell on Wagner Farms has been operational since February 2004 and has been used to heat the milking parlor during the winter months. The fuel cell has operated for more than 2,000 hours, generating approximately 4,800kWh and 16.5 million BTUs.

"Plug Power has sited more than 400 fuel cell systems serving a variety of applications over the past five years," said Dr. Roger Saillant, President and CEO for Plug Power, the vendor that worked on the Wagner installation. "This installation at Wagner Farm is important to us since it represents a brand new application for our fuel cell system and it allows us to gain additional insight operating a system in this type of environment."

Capable of operating on multiple fuels, such as natural gas, propane and hydrogen, fuel cell systems offer higher efficiency than conventional power generation, little or no pollution, greater flexibility in installation and operation, and are viable alternatives to existing power sources. In addition to Wagner Farms, Plug Power has also installed a fuel cell at Stanton's Dairy Farm in Coeymans Hollow, Albany County.

New York's 7,000 dairy farmers pay nearly $40 million annually for utility costs or approximately $.33 for every hundred pounds of milk sold.