Price Chopper Fires Up New Fuel Cell

Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., went live with a new power-generating 400-kilowatt fuel cell system at an existing store in Glenville, N.Y.

GLENVILLE, N.Y. — Price Chopper Supermarkets [3], Schenectady, N.Y., went live with a new power-generating 400-kilowatt fuel cell system at an existing store here Monday.

"Frank just fired up the fuel cell," said Benny Smith, vice president of facilities, Price Chopper, during a webinar on fuel cells for supermarkets, referring to Frank Blake, electrical specialist for the chain.

Price Chopper's initial 400-kilowatt fuel cell installation took place in a new store in Colonie, N.Y., which opened in June 2009. The chain, which operates 128 stores, is working on a third installation in Middletown, Conn. The fuel cells are supplied by UTC Power, South Windsor, Conn.

At the Colonie store, the fuel cell generates 60% to 70% of the electricity required during the summer, and all that is needed during the winter. The system also provides heat for a variety of store applications, including hot water, refrigeration, air handling, snow melting and floor heating.

"Supermarkets are a great facility to apply fuel cell technology because we are operating 24-7 year-round," said Smith. "It's not like an office building where you go home at five o’clock and the lights go off."

Price Chopper received grants from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to help finance both the Colonie and Glenville fuel cell projects. Even with that assistance, Smith put the cost of a fuel cell at between $1 million and $1.5 million.

"Without the grants, the projects would not be approved," he said.

While he is still analyzing the payback period, he estimated it to be five years or less.