Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy today announced the signing of an agreement with Japan’s Marubeni Corporation to supply fuel cells for power plants and jointly develop the Asian market. Initial power plant orders of Direct Fuel Cells (DFC) up to 45 MW will be followed by a joint venture under which Marubeni will assemble DFC modules in Asia from components produced by FuelCell Energy at its US manufacturing facility.

“This alliance agreement strengthens our relationship with Marubeni and demonstrates a clear commitment by both companies to aggressively pursue the growing opportunities for distributed power generation in Japan and Asia,” said Jerry D. Leitman, president and CEO of FuelCell Energy.

“Marubeni has been focusing on developing clean, efficient power plants in Japan and throughout Asia,” said Marc G. Aube, Manager, Power Systems Division for Marubeni America Corporation. “These include hydropower, geothermal, wind and now fuel cells. It is Marubeni’s goal to provide high-quality, high-reliability power to satisfy Asia’s growing demand, in a way that respects the environment.”

“Marubeni intends to aggressively pursue the distributed generation market through our network of offices in Japan and Asia,” said Mamoru Sekiyama, Senior Operating Officer of Marubeni’s Utility & Infrastructure Division.

Upon signing the agreement, Marubeni will order 3 MW of DFC power plants from FuelCell Energy, in addition to the 1.25 MW currently on order. The two companies will also develop a balance of plant design for the Asian market. During the next two years, Marubeni is targeting orders of at least 45 MW in Japan and Asia.

Marubeni is making an initial $10 million investment in FuelCell Energy upon the signing of the agreement. FuelCell Energy is also granting 950 000 warrants to Marubeni, which will vest over the next two years, based on Marubeni reaching certain order targets of DFC power plants. Marubeni is expected to invest an additional $30 million in FuelCell Energy over the term of the agreement as it designs and sources increasing portions of the power plant and participates in the manufacturing joint venture.

The two companies plan to form a joint venture for the purposes of assembling DFC modules in Asia from components provided by FuelCell Energy. FuelCell Energy will have a business control in the joint venture. Marubeni will provide logistical support to the joint venture, including procurement, shipping and transportation functions. It will also provide management of the manufacturing facilities in Asia.

In a joint statement, FuelCell Energy and Marubeni referred to a growing need for clean, efficient distributed power in the Far East. As in the US, much of this new generation need is in and around major metropolitan areas where grid congestion and environmental constraints make fuel cells an excellent fit, according to the release.

Due to the high cost of energy, there is also a strong focus on cogeneration and the use of opportunity fuels such as wastewater treatment gases. Both of these applications are well suited for fuel cells. All this is further enabled by the introduction of deregulation of the electric industry, especially in Japan.

Direct FuelCells generate electricity with no combustion. They are, in effect like large, continuously operating batteries that generate electricity as long as fuel, such as natural gas, is supplied. Since the fuel is not burned, there is no pollution commonly associated with the combustion of fossil fuels. Also, the high efficiency leads to more electric power from less fuel and with less carbon dioxide emission.

The Marubeni Corporation is one of Japan’s leading general trading houses . The company has been involved in the development of over 20,000 MW of power generation worldwide.

FuelCell Energy, Inc, specialises in the development and commercialization of high efficiency fuel cells for electric power generation. The company’s Direct FuelCell (DFC) technology eliminates external fuel processing to extract hydrogen from a hydrocarbon fuel. This results in a product whose cost, combined with high efficiency, simplicity and reliability, results in product advantages for stationary power generation.