Solid Oxide Fuel Cell micro-CHP Field Trials
Key Objectives of the project
SOFT-PACT has been established to undertake a large scale field demonstration of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) generators that can be utilised in residential applications. The objectives being to:-
- Design, develop and deploy integrated fuel cell mCHP systems
- Training and re-skilling of installation and maintenance engineers
- Remote control and diagnostics of all the systems from a central point in real time
- Identify and quantify benefits to the homeowner
- Long term reliability and life data from the systems
To achieve these objectives the project has been split into two distinct phases:-
- Phase 1: Deployment of forty BlueGen™ 2kW SOFC generators with domestic hot water thermal stores (Pathfinder systems, a baseline to learn and understand the issues units will face in the field.)
- Phase 2: To design, build and deploy up to sixty 1-2 kWe SOFC micro-CHP units based on current prototype test systems (integrated systems with condensing boilers)
The main challenge for the project is to prove that a series of fuel cell appliances can be installed into occupied residential locations and show that at least 50% of its fuel being turned into electrical energy – originally only demonstrated in a laboratory. In addition show that the system can run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week providing this capability throughout the year. Two systems will be utilised: a SOFC based micro combined heat & power system providing Domestic Hot Water (DHW) only and a fully integrated fuel cell, thermal store and booster boiler system providing both Hot Water and Central Heating to compare and contrast the effectiveness of the systems to meet hot water and central heating demands.
A secondary challenge is to gather sufficient real time data on system performance to show the generating efficiency and the life of system is within the manufacturer’s targets: 40,000 hours on key components.
An energy model will be created per installation to gain usage insights by gathering data on how the system functions and interacts with the rest of the location.
Designing the final version of integrated system will take the findings from the pathfinder field trial into consideration to enhance reliability and serviceability while miniaturising the current prototype to meet acceptable size constraints for domestic installation.
Cost and performance analysis of the systems sub-components will be performed and redesigned necessary to meet JTI commercial system cost target of €4-5k per kWe in mass production (post 2015)
Training and re-skilling of installation and maintenance engineers beyond the standard boiler fitter will be required as this is one of the key barriers to mass market exploitation
Key outputs from the project (an EU market study, data from two field trials, building of installation capability and the completion of the development of a optimised integrated FC system) address the major hurdles / barriers that are limiting full scale system fuel cell deployment, which are namely; the reduction in the total cost of system compared to other microgeneration devices, development of the supply chain for key components (inverters, filters, etc) to enable cost reduction and statistical proof of the systems reliability and maintenance requirements from gathering long term field test data which will provide the manufacturer with the confidence to offer long term product warranties. However these alone will not place the product in homes as these systems require qualified specialist hybrid (electrical, mechanical and IT) installation and maintenance engineers, this programme starts the creation of this capability. It will also validate the ability to safely control and operate a multitude of systems at multiple locations in real time the ability to avoid the need for maintenance call outs, a necessity as the number of deployments increases.
Expected socio and economic impact
Mitigating the effects of climate change through more efficient use of energy, the BlueGen unit used in the pathfinder field trial displaces 4.5 Tonnes of CO2 p.a. (in the UK) using electricity made at 60% net efficiency.
It can enable the average UK home to meet the UK 2030 GHG emission reduction targets due no emissions of harmful ambient air substances like nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide or carbon monoxide.
The benefits of hydrogen and fuel cells are wide ranging, but will not be fully apparent until they are in widespread use these trials a first step in the commercialisation, discovering the real world issues in their deployment.
European leadership in fuel cells will play a key role in creating high-quality employment opportunities, from strategic R&D to production, craftsmen and installers; employee numbers are already increasing throughout the consortium and supply chain due to this project taking place.