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GE to build fuel-cell plant; fuel-cell shares rally

The GE GE -0.04% news helped boost fuel-cell stocks on Tuesday, with shares of FuelCell Energy Inc. rallying nearly 12% as the company announced a research grant to lower the cost of fuel cells.

FuelCell FCEL +1.62% , a developer and operator of stationary fuel-cell power plants, said Tuesday that Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy awarded it and a joint-venture partner 5 million euros, or about $6.7 million.

The research and development project with partner Fraunhofer IKTS aims to increase power density and the operating life of fuel cells, which would lead to lower cost.

FuelCell’s power plants are used as back-up power in telecommunications and IT, and as onsite distributed power for manufacturing plants.

FuelCell and South Korea’s Posco Energy, a subsidiary of that country’s giant steelmaker Posco, have collaborated for a decade, and in February FuelCell announced a fuel-cell power plant in South Korea that will serve as a backup to part of Seoul’s subway system, and another plant is operating and selling energy to South Korea’s grid.

Shares of Ballard Power Systems Inc. CA:BLD +1.79% , a maker of fuel cells, up 4.5%.

Plug Power Inc. PLUG +0.71% , which provides hydrogen fuel-cell packs to forklifts and other warehouse equipment, rose 7.7%.

Plug Power has gained 1,454% in the last 12 months, and is up 296% so far this year. The stock’s vertiginous rise accelerated in late 2013 and early 2014 in the wake of high-profile, if relatively small, deals with a few FedEx Corp. delivery trucks and six Wal-Mart Stores Inc. distribution centers.

Monday’s rally for Plug Power was pinned to a short squeeze, analysts have said. About a third of Plug’s stock are sold short.

At GE, scientists have reached a “breakthrough” involving a type of cell called solid oxide fuel cell, GE said Tuesday.

“The resulting technology could soon start producing electricity around the world,” the conglomerate said. “The new system’s power generation efficiency can reach an unprecedented 65 percent. Overall efficiency can grow to 95 percent when the system is configured to capture waste heat produced by the process. The basic configuration of the system can generate between 1 to 10 megawatts of power.”

The internal startup grew out of GE Global Research, but it operates as an independent unit with its own board of directors, GE said.

The new manufacturing facility would be located near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and “is already filling up with robotic thermal spray equipment, fuel cell test stations, screen printers and towering bulk gas storage tanks.”

Meanwhile, solar stocks also traded higher on Tuesday, tracking the broader U.S. equity market. U.S.-listed shares of Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. YGE +0.84% rose 6.4%, among the top gainers. Heavyweights SolarCity Corp. SCTY -0.42% and SunEdison Inc. rose 1.5% and 1.2%, respectively.

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