St. Helena Hospital is now being powered by a 400-kilowatt fuel cell that meets 63 percent of the hospital’s electricity needs.

Its byproduct, thermal energy, is being used for hot water and space heating for three of the hospital’s buildings. The hospital will rely on the fuel cell as the primary source of heat and power, while keeping boilers and generators online for some low-level energy needs and emergency backup.

By generating most of its power on site with a fuel cell, the hospital is able to prevent the release of more than 530 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually — the equivalent of planting more than 125 acres of trees.

The fuel cell was partially funded by a grant from the California Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) and by an anonymous donor through the Napa Valley Community Foundation.

The power costs for the hospital are expected to drop by as much as $180,000 annually, helping to repay the equipment investment in as little as three years.

The Model 400 System fuel cell was manufactured by UTC Power, a United Technologies Corp. company.

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