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Introduction To Residential Fuel Cell Technology. “My power went out last night and my alarm clock didn’t go off … “. Tremayne Q. Days. Background. Residential fuel cell systems can be operated to provide primary or backup power for the home.

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Presentation Transcript
  • Residential fuel cell systems can be operated to provide primary or backup power for the home.
  • They can run independently or in parallel to an existing power grid.
  • A fuel cell power system for a residence could be located in the basement or backyard, taking up about as much space as an ordinary refrigerator, and providing clean, quiet, reliable power.

Tremayne Q. Days

what s wrong with our current fossil fuels
What’s wrong with our current fossil fuels?
  • Depleting Supplies
  • Pollution
  • Greenhouse Gasses
  • Dependence on other countries
  • Less Efficient
  • Will become more expensive

Tremayne Q. Days

where does my electricity come from
Where does my electricity come from?

Source: Reliant Energy Residential Services -

Residential PTB, CenterPoint Energy service area

Issue Date: 07/28/03

Tremayne Q. Days

what are my alternatives
What are my alternatives?
  • Solar – Photovoltaics
  • Wind
  • Hydroelectric
  • Fuel Cells

Tremayne Q. Days

where did this technology come from
Where did this technology come from?
  • In 1839, Sir William Robert Grove, a Welsh physicist, discovered that hydrogen and oxygen could be combined to produce water and an electric current.
  • Serious interest in fuel cells did not begin until the 1960’s when they were used in the US space program in preference to riskier nuclear and program in preference to riskier nuclear and more expensive solar energy.
  • Powered the Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts and Powered the Gemini and Apollo spacecrafts and shuttle provided water and electricity to the shuttle.

Tremayne Q. Days

what is a fuel cell
What Is A Fuel Cell?

In principle, a fuel cell operates like a battery. Unlike a battery, a fuel cell does not run down or require recharging. It will produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied.

A fuel cell consists of two electrodes sandwiched around an electrolyte. Oxygen passes over one electrode and hydrogen over the other, generating electricity, water and heat.

2H2 + O2 = 2H2O


Tremayne Q. Days

what are the basic parts
What are the basic parts?
  • There are three main components in a residential fuel cell system - the hydrogen fuel reformer, the fuel cell stack, and the power conditioner.
  • The reformer converts the fuel to a useable form for the fuel cell. Many of the prototypes being tested and demonstrated extract hydrogen from propane or natural gas.
  • The fuel cell stack converts the hydrogen and oxygen from the air into electricity, water vapor, and heat. This is where the bulk of the work is done.
  • The power conditioner (inverter) then converts the electric DC current from the stack into AC current that many household appliances operate on.

Tremayne Q. Days

what types of fuel cells exist
What types of fuel cells exist?
  • Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC): PEMFCs use a polymer based membrane to separate the anode and cathode of the cell.
    • operate at low temperatures and have the advantage of quick start up times.
    • the leading fuel cell design for use in automobiles
    • expensive catalysts to achieve outputs that are competitive with high temperature designs.
  • Alkaline fuel cell (AFC):

AFC are one of the oldest fuel cell designs

    • They have been used in the U.S. space program since the 1960s.
    • very susceptible to contamination, so they require pure hydrogen and oxygen.
    • unlikely they will ever be used in commercial applications.
  • Phosphoric-acid fuel cell (PAFC): PAFC's were the first fuel cells produced at commercial volumes, and enjoy widespread commercial use.
    • operate at high temperatures and have long start-up times
    • not suitable for use in automobiles and various other applications.
  • Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC): These fuel cells are best suited for large-scale stationary power generators that could provide electricity for factories or towns.
    • operate at very high temperatures (up to 1,000 C).
    • the steam produced by the SOFC's can be channeled into turbines to generate more electricity. This improves the overall efficiency of the system.
  • Molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC): These fuel cells are also best suited for large stationary power generators.
    • operate at high temperatures (up to 600 C), and can also use steam to produce additional power.
    • MCFC's require a hot and corrosive mixture of lithium, potassium and sodium carbonates.

Tremayne Q. Days

why use a fuel cell
Why use a fuel cell?

Fuel cells are an energy user's dream: an efficient, combustion-less, virtually pollution-free power source, capable of being sited in downtown urban areas or in remote regions, that runs almost silently, and has few moving parts.

  • Available-Hydrogen is the most abundant gas in the universe.
    • it can be obtained from natural gas, coal gas, methanol, and various other fuels containing hydrocarbons.
  • Efficienct – Fuel cell power plants producing electricity and thermal energy are expected to achieve efficiencies of 80 percent or more as combined heat and power plants.
  • Clean – The only emission from the tailpipe of a fuel cell vehicle is water vapor.
  • Reliable – With fewer moving parts there is less chance of mechanical break-down

Tremayne Q. Days

what are the costs
What are the Costs?

Pay back period on a residential fuel cell for a typical homeowner is about four years. The initial price per unit in low volume production will be approximately $1,500 per kW. Once high volume production begins, the price is expected to drop to $1,000 per kW, with the ultimate goal of getting costs below $500 per kW. Fuel cell developers are racing to reach these cost targets.

Tremayne Q. Days

where are we at today
Where are we at today?
  • AirGen manufactures a portable fuel cell generator which can be used in the home and provide uninterrupted 1200 W service for up to 15 hours.


Tremayne Q. Days

where is fuel cell technology being used today
Where is fuel cell technology being used today?
  • Plug Power has 126 Fuel Cell Units in the field
  • To Date, they’ve operated over 1.2 million hours and generated over 3.1 million kWh of power

Tremayne Q. Days

powered flight
Powered Flight
  • Boeing Phantom Works has teamed up with Intelligent Energy to produce a prototype aircraft that will operate using fuel cell technology
  • The Fuel Cell Airplane Demonstrator Project will prove that fuel cell technology can provide environmental benefits and optimize fuel usage for commercial aircraft.
  • Boeing believes that fuel cells have great potential to replace auxiliary power units for commercial passenger and freight air fleets.
  • The first manned fuel cell airplane flight is planned for December 2003

Tremayne Q. Days

  • Deliver electricity to base-housing units and electricity and heat to the Challenger Learning Center in San Antonio, TX.
  • Over the one-year demonstration period, Plug Power’s GenSys™5CS fuel cell system will deliver more than 20,000 kW-hrs of electricity, and will likely satisfy 100% of the learning center’s domestic hot water needs.

Tremayne Q. Days

where do we go from here
Where do we go from here?
  • Demonstration units are being tested around the country by fuel cell manufacturers in cooperation with local governments and/or utilities. Initial commercial units are expected to hit the market in the 2003-2004 timeframe.
  • According to Allied Business Intelligence, Inc., the current $40 million stationary fuel cell market will grow to more than $10 billion by 2010.
  • In the near future, fuel cells could be propelling automobiles and allowing homeowners to generate electricity in their basements or backyards

Tremayne Q. Days

challenges of the future
Challenges of the Future
  • Fuel cells offer great promise for meeting future power needs, but there are challenges to overcome. Besides making the technology affordable and readily available, a cost effective fuel infrastructure must be developed
  • Building an infrastructure that uses hydrogen as an energy carrier is essential to achieving full commercial application of hydrogen energy technologies, including fuel cells. This new energy infrastructure is known as the "hydrogen economy." Before widespread hydrogen distribution is possible, hydrogen technologies must be developed to produce hydrogen by reforming fossil fuels..

Tremayne Q. Days

additional information
Additional Information
  • (US Department of Energy)
  • Fuel Cell Commission)
  • (Advanced Fuel Cell Solutions)
  • San Antonio News (02/19/2003)
  • Gas Technology Institute
  • Houston Advanced Research Center

Tremayne Q. Days