I admit it. I'm fascinated with fuel cell technology. Call me a technical geek, but I just can't help myself. The applications for these devices seem endless. Although the basic technology for these unique energy sources has existed for nearly 150 years, it's only been in the last few years that people have seriously considered fuel cells as a power source for the future. As the push for "green energy" continues, we might soon see these devices powering our portable phones, cars, homes - and even the neighborhood electric power plant. Sound farfetched? Maybe not. Listen to this.

In the residential arena, Avista Labs, Spokane, Wash., is in the final stages of developing a 2kW distributed power plant for homes and businesses. The polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cell converts hydrogen to electricity without combustion. The systems cartridge-based design will allow end-users to easily remove and replace individual fuel cell cartridges while the power system continues to operate. How's that for convenience?

On the automotive front, Ballard Power Systems, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada and XCELLSIS Fuel Cell Engines, Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia, recently announced the successful conclusion of their fuel cell bus demonstration program with TransLink. Over the past two years, 110,000 passengers benefited from this technology by riding on one of three fuel cell-powered buses, which logged more than 41,600 miles.

On a larger scale, Chugach Electric Association, Anchorage, Alaska, recently installed a 1MW fuel cell array in Anchorage to provide electricity to the regions' largest U.S. Postal Service Center. The array was designed and manufactured by International Fuel Cell (IFC), South Windsor, Conn. - a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. Operating in parallel with the utility transmission grid, the fuel cell array serves as the primary source of power for the postal center. Excess power from the system feeds back into the utility grid. You have to admit the concept of selling power back to your utility is rather interesting.

In the big scheme of things, these are just a few of many fuel cell applications. The number of researchers, government agencies, and private corporations looking for that next technological breakthrough is impressive. Don't be surprised if we look back on these days as the advent of the fuel cell revolution.