American Idol, Dancing With the Stars Powered by Fuel Cells

The video cameras and production equipment behind popular television programs including American Idol, CSI and Dancing with the Stars will now be powered by fuel cells.

CBS Studios is outfitting two California production facilities where these shows are produced with six UTC Power PureCell stationary fuel cells.

Three of the cells will find a home in Studio City, where they will power 18 sound stages and office space; the other three are being installed at CBS Television City in Los Angeles to support another eight sound stages and offices.

Together, the systems will generate 2.4 megawatts (MW) of electricity, satisfying 40% and 60% of the studios’ electricity requirements, respectively.

The PureCell systems aren’t just producing electricity; they create thermal energy that can be used for space heating and hot water. UTC Power, a division of United Technologies Corp., says the technology offers industry-leading 90% efficiency. The cells stacks have a lifetime of 10 years.

Four of the systems are being configured to operate off-the-grid, which will keep the production facility online during blackouts, natural disasters or man-made emergencies.

"With the installation of these PureCell systems, we will substantially increase our energy security by being able to continue operations in the event of a grid outage and, equally important, the installation is projected to reduce our impact on the environment and provide significant energy cost savings for our business," says Michael Klausman, president of the CBS Studio Center & Senior VP Operations, CBS Television City.

The project is supported by California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program, and the units are scheduled for delivery later this year.

UTC Power is one of several companies benefiting from growth in on-site installations of fuel cells. One forecast predicts the market will grow to $1.22 billion in 2014, compared with $598 million in 2010. 

A 2011 report on the fuel cell industry names UTC Power as the market leader for "strategy" and "execution," although another company, FuelCell Energy, earned the highest overall marks.

Another leading fuel cell maker is Bloom Energy, which counts Owens Corning, Urban Outfitters, AT&T, Google, eBay, Walmart and Coca-Cola among its customers. In May, Bloom broke ground for a new manufacturing facility at an old Chrysler assemble site in Newark, Delaware — a project that will double its production capacity.

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