WATT Fuel Cell Corp. marks grand opening in Mt. Pleasant Township
In April, New York-based WATT Fuel Cell Corp. acquired Mt. Pleasant Township-based Pittsburgh Electric Engines Inc., a move which melded both companies' fuel cell technologies and personnel into a single entity.
The primary purpose of the acquisition executed by officials of WATT Fuel Cell Corp. — a company headquartered in Port Washington — was to expand its manufacturing operation of specialized fuel cells to the local company's site at the Mt. Pleasant Glass Center located in the township.
Soon after the acquisition took place, WATT Fuel Cell Corp. began the expansion initiative that the company hopes will help create a number of additional jobs locally during the next five years.
The corporation, which makes solid oxide fuel cell components and systems, recently celebrated the official grand opening of its local manufacturing line in the 39,000-square-foot space within the center along State Route 31.
“We broke ground on June 9, and we made our first fuel cell here two weeks ago,” said Caine Finnerty, chief executive officer of the corporation, which was founded in 2010.
The fuel cells operate on natural gas, diesel, propane and renewable fuels, provide portable power, and can be used as emergency backup power for municipalities and as battery chargers for electronic systems contained in recreational vehicles and offshore marine power, along with remote sensor power.
The cells are micro-tubular and contain ceramic components that help allow the items to operate at very high temperatures.
Unlike typical fuel cells that use hydrogen gas, the WATT cells can run on fuels readily available to the public, or even jet fuel in military situations.
The company's ability to make a smaller fuel cell that is exponentially more efficient than the traditional fuel cell, combined with the use of several different kinds of fuels, that has made the company able to offer its product to the general public at an affordable rate, Finnerty said.
WATT Fuel Cell Corp. also recently announced the establishment of a strategic licensing and supply agreement with Parker Hannifin Corp. which stipulates Parker's production of a family of propane-driven, solid oxide fuel cell-based products for the recreational vehicle, marine, over-the-road trucking and residential markets.
The pact includes Parker's exclusive license of WATT Fuel Cell's balance-of-plant (BoP) technology and stack supply for use in 500- to 3000-watt recreational vehicles, marine and over-the-road trucking markets.
Parker will manufacture the BoP and controls and also integrate the fuel cell stacks into complete, packaged solid oxide fuel cell products.
WATT Fuel Cel Corp. is targeting motor home companies and boat companies to market the concept of having a power source readily available without having to plug it in to “the grid” for those who need it to operate electronic systems contained within such conveyances during recreational activities, Finnerty said.
“What we're talking about here today is the creation of true energy independence, right here in the ‘Land of the Free,'” he said. “Combining U.S.-sourced fuels with U.S.-manufactured power generation units, WATT is making ‘off the grid' a reality for America, in America.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and founder of the House Caucus on Natural Gas, was on hand for the grand opening event.
Murphy praised the company for its accomplishments.
“To take something (like the fuel cell) that has traditionally been unaffordable and unmanageable, and get it to the place where it can be put in your RV or boat at an affordable price, is a great thing,” Murphy said.
Finnerty said the possibilities for this technology are limitless, adding that the company hopes to have them available to the recreational world between March and September of next year, and at trade shows for residential use in approximately one calendar year.
“This fuel cell technology is not just something that will benefit the corporate, governmental and industrial world,” Murphy said. “It is also a clean, efficient and affordable source of electricity for the average apartment dweller, homeowner and even RV and boating enthusiast — not 10 to 20 years in the future, but now.”
Company spokeswoman Jennifer Parker said there are currently 16 employees working at the local site, and the company hopes to create between 10 to 20 additional jobs during the next five years, including positions for engineers, technicians, administrative support, and marketing and sales.
In addition to Murphy, others attending WATT's recent grand opening included Westmoreland County commissioners Tyler Courtney and Ted Kopas; Mt. Pleasant Township supervisors Duane Hutter, Frank Puskar and Jack Rutkowski; and state Sen. Kim Ward (R-Hempfield).
Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.