Fuel Cells/Stationary 050805
The theme of this review describes the substantial improvements in the technology, but yet, the underlying answer to the title question seems to be No! PEM fuel cells still suffer from limited life and high cost. To evaluate the performance of stationary fuel cells, a nonprofit organization, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) has been formed. Current units being tested are in the 1 to 5 kW range. HARC results will evaluate performance and cost per kW; there will be continual comparison milestones. Stay tuned!
Fuel Cell Magazine, December 2004, pp. 16-18
(June 2004) The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy studies fuel cells for distributed generation (DG). A few points in the study, “Stationary Fuel Cells: Future Promise, Current Hype, ” include the following:
-> Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cells (5-10kW) will most likely be the dominant technology for residential and small commercial sectors
-> Fuel cells are not currently cost-effective compared with other generation technologies. Equity research from CIBC reports that manufacturers need to at least triple or quadruple their production capacity by year-end 2004 to bring selling price of units down to the $1,500 -$2,000/kW range.
-> One of the greatest barriers to the installation of fuel cell and other DG systems lies in the complicated and lengthy plant siting and permitting process.
-> The technical problems and cost issues relate to four areas:
a) stack life - 50,000 hours are needed to gain a significant market share.
b) fuel reformers - The overall efficiency of fuel reformers combined with efficiency of the fuel cell stack sometimes falls below 40%.
c) power electronics and overall system integration - Inverters and other power electronic components remain significant costs to the over all fuel cell system.
d) broader market barriers - Market awareness, infrastructure, market/regulatory treatment for low emission systems, and interconnection costs need to be addressed.
-> Since manufacturing capability is still low, the technical potential will remain rather small until 2012.
The study includes information on the Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell (200kW), the Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (200-250kW), the Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell (250kW - 2,000kW) and the Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell also known as the “Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel cell” (5-10kW). The complete study, Report Number IE041, can be downloaded free at http://aceee.org.pubs/ie041.htm.
(August 2003) FuelCell Technologies installs pilot VOC reformer and SOFC (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell) system at the Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn Assembly Plant to transform waste gases into energy. The pilot system consumes emissions from Ford’s vehicle paint shop and turns them into electrical energy and heat for the facility.
FuelCell’s Energy’s Direct FuelCell(R) power plant, the DFC 1500 receives certification from American National Standards Institute. The one megaWatt power plant is the largest power plant to be certified under the Institute’s Z21.83 Products Safety Standard.
GM unveils its first planned commercial fuel cell product. The HyUPS system , a backup power generator, is about the size of a refrigerator and can generate up to 24 kiloWatts for up to two hours. This generator can be used to keep wireless phone towers operating through power outages. Hydrogenics Corp., a partner of GM, along with Nextel Communications, Inc. will field-test the unit in California in the early months of 2002. Other companies involved in the development of this technology are Quantum Technologies Worldwide, Inc. and Giner Electrochemical Systems.(12-01 BD69-11)
Dreams of the New Power Grid
After years of touting the availability of stationary fuel cells, the implementations have not met expectations. Plug Power put at 5 kW prototype system in a New York home but pulled it out two years later. The systems are too inefficient and expensive, as perceived by 36% of Popular Science Web site visitors who indicated reliability concerns. Present pricing of $6,000 per kW must come to below $1,000/kW to become interesting to homeowners. Despite the lack of progress, projections are that by 2031, 99% of homes will have fuel cell power. The biggest catalyst for residential stationary power is an environmental crisis or a political problem which leads to the shortage of oil. Platinum, for both the reformer and stack, is not produced in the U.S. but must be acquired from politically unstable regions.
March 2002, pp.60-63