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New York fuel cell company to add another plant in Mt. Pleasant Township

Joe Napsha
| Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, 11:06 p.m.

A New York-based company is expanding its manufacturing operation of specialized fuel cells to the Mount Pleasant Glass Center, a $2.27 million project that is expected to result in 33 jobs during the next three years.

WATT Fuel Cell Inc., which makes solid oxide fuel cell components and systems at its plant in Port Washington, is expanding its manufacturing line in a 39,000-square-foot space within the glass center along Route 31 in Mt. Pleasant Township, the state Department of Community and Economic Development said. WATT Fuel Cell has committed to investing more than $1.4 million at the site.

To help fund the project, the state is providing a $370,000 loan and a $300,000 grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority's Alternative and Clean Energy Program, the economic development department said.

The company has been assembling the fuel cell manufacturing line in the past few months and expects it will be in operation around the time it holds a grand opening next month, said James Smith, president of Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, a Greensburg-based economic development organization that worked with the state on the project.

WATT Fuel Cell leased 15,000 square feet to accommodate its manufacturing operation, Smith said.

“We're very excited about this. This company has a great take on that technology,” Smith said.

The fuel cells made by WATT, which operate on natural gas, diesel, propane and renewable fuels, provide portable power and can be used as emergency backup power for municipalities, battery charging for recreational vehicles and offshore marine power, and remote sensor power.

Mt. Pleasant Mayor Jerry Lucia said he was “very impressed” with WATT officials and their plans for expansion at the glass center, which had been a Lenox Inc. crystal stemware plant before it closed in January 2002. The glass center has been converted into an industrial park operated by the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp.

“They are 100 percent for making that go,” Lucia said, noting that WATT's commitment is reflected in its officials' purchases of homes in the Mt. Pleasant area.

The state funding was made available as part of the business expansion. WATT must apply for each loan and grant and agree to the terms before receiving the award, said Heidi Havens, an economic development department spokeswoman.

WATT accepted a state funding proposal from the Community and Economic Development department that includes $66,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits and $11,250 in Workforce and Economic Development Network grants, which will be used to lease space in the glass center and buy equipment.

The company has been encouraged to apply for the funding as well as a low-interest loan, including $440,000 from the state's machinery and equipment loan fund, Havens said.

Jennifer Parker, a spokeswoman for WATT, was not available to comment about the project.

WATT Fuel Cell acquired space at the glass center in April when it bought Pittsburgh Electric Engines Inc., a solid oxide fuel cell developer. The acquisition is expected to substantially widen the scope of the company's markets because Pittsburgh Electric Engines has established the legitimacy of larger tubular fuel cells in commercial applications, WATT wrote in a statement.

Implementing WATT's manufacturing techniques with the Pittsburgh Electric Engines' technology could reduce manufacturing costs by as much as 75 percent, Caine Finnerty, president of WATT Fuel Cell, wrote in a statement.

Pittsburgh Electric Engines was down to a “skeletal staff” by the time WATT acquired the company, Smith said. Economic development officials began talking to WATT officials in late March, he said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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