Several families in the Chicago area are to be the guinea-pigs for assessing the technical, economic and environmental benefits of using small residential fuel cell generation systems. The pre-commercial units, designed for both single and multi-family dwellings, will be installed by the Community Energy Cooperative and EPRIsolutions, a subsidiary of the Electric Power Research Institute.

The pilot project will include the development of as many as five fuel cell systems and will involve procurement, baseline testing, installation, interconnection and test monitoring. EPRIsolutions will provide technical management and test monitoring support as well as educational material that explains the operation, environmental benefits and energy features of the technology. The test will start in the fourth quarter of 2001. According to EPRIsolutions It represents a step towards the use of distributed generation of electricity. The furnace-sized units can produce between 3 kW and 7 kW of power. EPRIsolutions believe such units could become a practical reality within about two years.