New Installations, Research Power Fuel Cell Adoption

Adoption of fuel-cell technology is moving forward with the planned installation of seven units—the world's largest application to date—at a call-routing center in Long Island, New York. The call-center installation involves seven 200-kW units, which will provide primary power for a 332,000-sq.

09/01/2002


Adoption of fuel-cell technology is moving forward with the planned installation of seven units—the world's largest application to date—at a call-routing center in Long Island, New York.

The call-center installation involves seven 200-kW units, which will provide primary power for a 332,000-sq.-ft. facility developed by Verizon. These units will be supplemented by four gas-fired generator sets, which are designed to operate in parallel with the fuel cells and as a backup system. The combined output of this hybrid system will be 4.4 MW, which means that the project will surpass last year's installation of a six-unit fuel-cell "microgrid" at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown, Conn., as the world's largest installation.

In a related development, the American Society of Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), in an effort to help building design professionals identify more potential fuel-cell applications, has published Fuel Cells for Building Applications. The 140-page book provides building designers with background on the four types of fuel cells now on the market, as well as information to help identify projects most likely to yield economic and environmental benefits.

Economics are often the biggest argument against fuel cells. Emission levels are far lower per unit of power than those of conventional power sources, but current installation and operating costs can range from $4,000 to $5,000 per kilowatt-hour, compared to $1,000 to $1,500 for more conventional generation sources. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are studying ways to lower operating temperatures for one kind of fuel cell—solid-oxide fuel cells—which could save on costs by allowing a switch from ceramic to stainless steel for some of the unit's components.

Currently, solid-oxide models require a temperature of 1,4727F to most efficiently transform hydrocarbon fuel into electricity. Increasing the surface area of the fuel cell's electrode could boost output efficiencies, allowing the units to operate at lower temperatures without sacrificing performance.

From Pure Power, Fall 2002





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