11-04-13 Fuel Cells for Residential Heat and Power in Europe

Fuel Cells for Residential Heat and Power in Europe

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13 Apr 2011PDF (479 kb)

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11-04-13 Fuel Cells for Residential Heat and Power in Europe

One of the most successful deployments of fuel cell products yet is the Japanese Ene-Farm project. This has seen around 14,000 micro combined heat and power (m-CHP) systems delivered to domestic customers in Japan so far, with more sales to come. The developer of the Japanese system, Panasonic, has indicated that it will be targeting the international market from 2015 - but by then we believe Panasonic will be facing stiff competition.

This prediction is made on the basis of our visit to the Hannover Messe in Germany last week, where we took in the very successful Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Group Exhibit. The sheer number of demonstration products on display was staggering, as was the range of markets these are intended for. We were in no doubt that these represent the next generation of commercial fuel cell products, many likely to hit the European market in the next two to four years. Significantly, they included a number of m-CHP systems now under development by various consortia.

The first we saw was the 'inhouse5000' fuel cell generator, developed as a German collaborative effort under the name Riesaer Brennstoffzellentechnik (RBZ). Five units with more than 10,000 hours accumulated in the field are currently in demonstration and the developers are discussing commercial sales with interested energy suppliers, including major Italian utility Enel and local energy suppliers in Stuttgart. This low-temperature PEM fuel cell runs on reformed natural gas, but biogas and LPG are also in test. It supplies 5 kW electricity and 12 kW heat, considerably larger than its Japanese cousins and more than is needed for the average European home; as such it will most likely be targeted at SMEs, offices and hotels.

On the domestic m-CHP front, Germany's biggest field trial is the Callux project, run by the German Ministry for Transport, Construction and Urban Development (BMVBS) with nine industrial partners including energy suppliers (EnBW, E.ON Ruhrgas, EWE, MVV Energie and VNG) and system manufacturers (Baxi Innotech, Hexis and Vaillant). The Vaillant and Hexis systems are both SOFC-based, producing 1 kW electricity and 2 kW heat with overall efficiencies above 90%, whereas the Baxi Innotech Gamma 1.0 uses a low-temperature PEM, giving 1 kW electricity and 1.7 kW heat with a total efficiency of 85%. The systems are all designed for connection to the existing gas pipeline. Callux aims to have around 800 of these products installed in selected private homes by 2012, with the full test programme running until 2015.

We also met up with Plansee, who is best known in this industry for supplying SOFC plates to Bloom. It is now participating in a German government-funded project with the Fraunhofer Institute to develop SOFC stationary fuel cells for domestic use, the branding of which has yet to be defined. The consortium hopes to collaborate with industrial partners to produce the first prototypes within the next couple of years and to commercialise around the middle of the decade. Plansee mentioned the benefit it derived from the SOFC20 consortium CHP demonstrations, which ran for three years to October 2010. (The SOFC20 consortium was funded by NOW, Germany's national organisation for hydrogen and fuel cells and included Plansee, Fraunhofer, Forschungszentrum Jülich and Hexis.)

While these projects are initially focused on the German market and were prominent at the Messe there are other European initiatives, such as the FC-District Project which is running demonstrations in Spain, Greece and Poland. With so many projects in the stationary sector, there is a greater potential for success and, as a result, it is almost certain that the European equivalent of Ene-Farm will be not one product but several. Consumers will have their choice from a number of fuel cell domestic heating appliances, all of which will supply a good chunk of their electricity needs as well.

We can't fail to be excited by the prospect.

Dan Carter & Marge Ryan

info@fuelcelltoday.com

 

Image: One of the Ene-Farm units, which have proven popular in Japan (Source: Tokyo Gas)

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Contact Dan

Tel: +44 (0) 1763 256326

Dr Dan Carter
Fuel Cell Today
Gate 2, Orchard Road
Royston, SG8 5HE
Hertfordshire, UK


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Contact Marge

Tel: +44 (0) 1763 256059

Marge Ryan
Fuel Cell Today
Gate 2, Orchard Road
Royston, SG8 5HE
Hertfordshire, UK

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