NEW YORK - Verizon plans to install clean-air fuel cells as the primary electrical power source at a major call-routing center on Long Island, N.Y., to study the technology and its effectiveness in a large telecommunications switching environment. The project will be the largest fuel cell deployment project in the world.
After obtaining local permit approvals later this year, Verizon plans to start installation of seven fuel cells manufactured by UTC Fuel Cells, a unit of United Technologies Corp. The fuel cells will be installed at the company's call-switching center at 741 Zeckendorf Blvd., Garden City, Long Island. The new system, which is expected to be fully operational in 2004, will operate alongside four new natural-gas-powered generators, marking the first time such a fuel-cell power-generating system is used.
"We expect this fuel cell project will show us that the technology can deliver for us in terms of reliability, reducing energy costs and protecting the environment," said Paul Lacouture, Verizon's network president. "This is part of a comprehensive and company-wide program to look for ways to provide a stable, reliable power supply and control energy costs while preserving the environment."
This effort also supports Verizon's commitment as a co-signer of the North American Communications Environmental Excellence Initiative Charter signed at the United Nations.
U.S. House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) added, "This is great news for New York and great news for the environment. It demonstrates once again that fuel cells and clean energy technology are real, not fantasy. We should be doing more to encourage other companies to follow Verizon's example."
Fuel cells are powered by natural gas and give off virtually no air pollutants as they quietly produce electricity. They generate electrical power through chemical rather than mechanical processes. The only byproducts produced by the chemical reaction -- which combines hydrogen and oxygen atoms -- are heat and water.
Fuel-cell technology was first used on a practical basis by NASA to supply electrical power and water for manned spacecraft. The systems are still in use today on the Space Shuttle.
Once the Verizon project is operational, the fuel cells and natural gas generators will produce more than four megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power over 4,000 homes. In addition, the fuel-cell system has the potential to eliminate from the atmosphere up to 12 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually that would have resulted from commercial power generation.
"Verizon's decision to use fuel cells for such a critical installation demonstrates its commitment to employing the best technology to meet its customers' needs for reliability while protecting the environment," said UTC Fuel Cells President William Miller.
Verizon's 332,000-square-foot Garden City facility delivers local phone service to some 40,000 Verizon customers. More than 1,000 employees also work there, handling various functions, including answering customer calls. The fuel cells will provide the electricity they require.
While the new energy source will become the primary electrical power for the computerized call-switching system in Garden City, commercial electrical power and Verizon's turbine generators and batteries will remain as backups.
Verizon expects that it will be able to recover the initial project cost within five to six years and to generate significant cost savings in the process. The company is receiving some technical and financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the State of New York.
U.S. Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), who represents Garden City in Congress, said, "Not only will this Verizon facility be a showcase for fuel cell technology, but by creating an independent source of power they will not have to use the local power grid. This action when completed will free up enough power to cover over 4,000 individual homes. This state of the art technology here in our own area will serve as a model for similar ventures to be undertaken to promote the use of clean, alternative energy sources."
"We have closely studied large stationary fuel-cell technology progress over the past decade," said Jon Chestnut, project manager for Verizon. "Our decision to research and develop this technology first hand for telecommunications applications reaffirms that Verizon will explore and deploy the best technology to serve our customers."
In addition to installing fuel cells in Garden City, Verizon already has installed smaller fuel-cell units at small field equipment sites in a Boston suburb and on Long Island. The company plans to evaluate another fuel cell technology at a medium-size facility in upstate New York.
Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 132.1 million access line equivalents and 29.4 million wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. A Fortune 10 company with more than $67 billion in annual revenues and approximately 247,000 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to more than 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.