Torrington workers benefit from federal contract


FuelCell Energy Inc., which employs about 225 workers at a factory in Torrington, said Tuesday it is part of a team that has received a $30.2 million contract from the U.S. Department of Energy to help develop clean, coal-based power plants.

The contract, which covers Phase II of a multi-phase energy department program, calls for the Danbury-based company to build a 25-kilowatt solid oxide fuel stack that meets the program’s performance and manufacturing cost requirements. Phase II of the program runs through September 2010.

News of the contract sent FuelCell Energy shares as high as $4.85 in trading Tuesday on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. The shares, which opened at $4.50 per share, closed at $4.55, up 15 percent.

FuelCell Energy’s new oxide fuel stack will eventually be integrated with a 250-kilowatt to 1-megawatt fuel cell power module and a 5-megawatt proof-of-concept system that will operate on coal-based syngas, the company said. The module and proof-of-concept system will be designed, fabricated and tested in subsequent phases.

Coal-based syngas, or synthesis gas, is a gas mixture created by subjecting coal to high temperatures.

Solid oxide fuel cells are particularly “power dense,” producing relatively large amounts of electricity for their size and weight, the company said.

The overall goal of the program is to develop megawattclass power plants that will operate on syngas, which would help address the need to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

FuelCell Energy uses the cell and stack designs of its technology partner, Versa Power Systems Inc., while WorleyParsons Group Inc., another team member, provides engineering support for the power plant design.