Within the next few years, fuel cell CHP systems are expected to be able to compete with conventional systems on price, with competitive life cycle/fuel use costs.

Fuel Cell Combined Heat And Power (CHP)

London Hydrogen Partnership and Fuel Cell Markets Ltd | London Hydrogen Partnership and Fuel Cell Markets Ltd

Fuel Cell Combined Heat and Power

Within the next few years, fuel cell CHP systems are expected to be able to compete with conventional systems on price, with competitive life cycle/fuel use costs.

Contributed by
and Fuel Cell Markets Ltd

The London Hydrogen Partnership is helping to demonstrate the advantages of fuel cell-based combined heat and power (CHP/cogeneration) systems to potential customers. This webpage contains a downloadable briefing note on fuel cell CHP, information on suppliers of product, and a link to further information.

About fuel cell CHP

Most fuel cell CHP systems run on natural gas, although a variety of fuels can be used, including sewage and other processed wastes. Systems come in all shapes and sizes, suitable for a range of installations from single dwelling, networkable residential units to multi-megawatt sized industrial/commercial/utility support systems.

Fuel cell-based CHP systems have an edge in terms of cleanliness, reliability and availability, but their main advantage is often seen as their particularly high electrical efficiency, far superior to conventional and other newer CHP and microCHP technologies.

The use of fuel cells as a component of a development's energy supply is already a commercial reality. Planners, architects and developers should consider fuel cell Combined Heat and Power (CHP) when evaluating the energy services of new developments. This briefing provides an introduction to the subject - further information is available at www.lhp.org.uk/information/chp 

The Policy Framework

Planning applications in London are assessed by local planning authorities, and strategic applications are referred to the Mayor of London. They are considered against Local Development Framework policies and London Plan policies.

London Plan Policy 4A.7 requires 'the inclusion of energy efficient and renewable energy technology and design, natural ventilation, borehole cooling, combined heat and power, community heating, photovoltaics, solar water heating, wind, fuel cells, biomass fuelled electricity and heat generating plant in new developments wherever feasible'.

Supplementary Planning Guidance to the London Plan on sustainable design and construction (in consultation) includes the preferred standard: 'Major developments should make a contribution to London's hydrogen economy through the adoption of hydrogen and/or fuel cell technologies.'

Green light to clean power, the Mayor's Energy Strategy, provides context and further detail for these policies.

What are Fuel Cells?

Fuel cell technologies provide a highly efficient means of heat and electrical energy generation with very low levels of atmospheric emissions. Inside a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen atoms are recombined through an electrochemical process to produce water and energy in the form of electricity and heat. Fuel cells use hydrogen as a fuel source, but do not necessarily require a pure hydrogen feedstock, with systems making use of natural gas or other hydrogen rich fuels. There are several key benefits, as follows.

Smaller units achieve 30 to 40 per cent electrical efficiency (compared with 8 to 9 per cent for a stirling engine), and over 80 per cent total efficiency. Some of the larger systems can be configured for over 70 per cent electrical efficiency.

High efficiencies lead to significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions compared to conventional systems. Because no combustion takes place, fuel cells fed with natural gas are also very quiet and deliver negligible amounts of NOx and SOx. A pure hydrogen feedstock delivers no harmful emissions locally.

Fuel cell CHP can deliver uninterruptible power, of particular value for banking, data processing and medical installations.

When should they be considered?

Currently, fuel cell CHP systems are suitable for larger prestige developments where the scale of the project would enable the cost of the system to be diluted with other, more traditional sustainable energy technologies. Other key drivers include security of energy supply, early mover advantage and enhanced business image.

Where fuel cells are not commercially viable, their future inclusion in the development should be allowed for within building infrastructure. Fuel cell and conventional CHP systems have similar footprints.

Products and suppliers

Within the next few years, fuel cell CHP systems are expected to be able to compete with conventional systems on price, with competitive life cycle/fuel use costs. Systems are currently available for schemes from small residential 'microCHP' (1 to 5kWe) to large commercial (200kWe and above). Larger systems are also designed as discrete modules that can be supplemented by adding additional modules as necessary.

Woking's Pool in the Park fuel cell CHP

A 200kWe United Technologies fuel cell was installed in 2001 by Thameswey Energy Ltd for Woking Borough Council next to the leisure centre in Woking Park. Cost was not prohibitive as both equipment and financing were delivered as part of an integrated energy system with energy efficiency, photovoltaics and conventional CHP.

Baxi 'Home Energy Centre'

Baxi's networkable fuel cell produces 1.5kWe, 3kWth, and includes a 15kWth integral boiler. The beta unit shown is 1.7m high.

MTU 250kWe 'Hot Module'

This fuel cell CHP unit operates at a hospital in Magdeburg, Germany.

Further information on systems and suppliers is given online at www.lhp.org.uk/information/chp 

The London Hydrogen Partnership is a public-private partnership chaired by the GLA that works towards a hydrogen economy for London and the UK, by developing strategy, undertaking advocacy and enabling hydrogen and fuel cell projects.

The Partnership Secretariat can be contacted on ++44 (0)20 7983 4727 or via info@lhp.org.uk


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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