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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Dominican Republic officials looking to Flint company for fuel cell plant

Top dignitaries from the Dominican Republic visited the city Wednesday to discuss a tentative deal between the island and Flint-based Global Energy Innovations that could bring a fuel cell plant to the electricity-starved nation.

GEI, founded by Kettering University’s fuel cell leader and scientist K. Joel Berry, is in talks with the country to install a plant that could house enough fuel cells to power a couple thousand homes and businesses on the island.

The fuel cell units would be built in Flint and could potentially create between 20 to 50 jobs in the city, officials said.

The Dominican Republic Energy Minister Celso Marranzini and Secretary of State Eddy Martinez were among key officials at Kettering, optimistic that Flint-born fuel cell technology could provide the dependable, affordable power their country has lacked.

“I believe this could be a historic moment,” said Martinez, also the executive director of the country’s Export and Investment Center. “I see this as a transcendental opportunity that can create jobs in Flint, create jobs in Michigan and create jobs in the Dominican.

“We hope that this is a platform that can expand to the rest of Latin America.”

The size, dollar amount and job-creating potential of the fuel cell power plant were among details to be discussed in private meetings throughout the day, when officials were to see for the first time demonstrations of how the technology works.

A final agreement is expected to be approved within three months.

A lack of reliable, low-cost energy sources has created an electricity crisis for the Caribbean island nation, which is plagued with regular blackouts. That’s a bottleneck to economic growth and attracting companies, officials said.

“We’re looking to get new technology to help us solve the electricity problem we’ve had for more than 40 years,” Marranzini said. “It has been one of President (Leonel) Fern├índez’s biggest commitments to solve that problem. We want to have electricity 24 hours a day.

“This is a great opportunity. I’m sure we will be able to get a lot of technology transferred to the Dominican.”

The deal would be a major milestone for GEI, a four-year-old Kettering spinoff company whose product can use clean, efficient natural gas to power commercial buses, military bases and homes.


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