SANTA ROSA -- Sonoma County will break ground for the installation of a 1.4 megawatt fuel cell on Tuesday.

The fuel cell, which will provide electricity for the county’s main complex of buildings in Santa Rosa, is the centerpiece of Sonoma County’s comprehensive energy plan, which will both lower greenhouse gas emissions and save a substantial amount of money over the life of the project.

The fuel cell, built by FuelCell Energy Inc. of Connecticut and installed by AirCon Energy of Sacramento, will cost about $9 million, or 40 percent of the $22 million for the overall project. It combines natural gas with oxygen to product energy.

The fuel cell produces power more cleanly than standard natural gas generation, and the excess heat that is produced will be used to heat water and run absorption chillers for additional energy savings. The overall energy plan is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 4,000 tons per year, and will save the county between $40 million and $50 million over the course of 25 years.


According to county public information officer Jim Toomey, other improvement to be made in months to come include lighting retrofits in 20 buildings, HVAC replacement in five buildings and water conservation measures in administration and detention facilities.


“The jail is a huge consumer of energy, running 24-7,” he said. “Any improvements we make there give us a lot of bang for the buck.


The fuel cell groundbreaking will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at 1:00 p.m. at 2680 Ventura Avenue in Santa Rosa.