Plans to deploy fuel cell technology around the world are getting more ambitious. In the latest and boldest move, US-based fuel cell developer AFC Energy is studying the feasibility of supplying 300 MW of fuel cell-based generating capacity to the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence for a variety of uses around the Emirate.
If successful, the two organisations will form a joint venture to install fuel cell plants within infrastructure projects such as Al Maktoum International Airport and others associated with Dubai Carbon’s owners: the Emirates National Oil Company, Dubai Electricity and the Dubai Aluminium Company.
Unusually, the two organisations see scope to monetise not only the clean energy (heat and power) generated by the fuel cells, but also the water also produced as a by-product. The 300 MW of capacity would represent the largest fuel cell development programme in the world.
An existing 59 MW fuel cell installation in South Korea is thought to be the largest in the world so far. This installation, at Gyeonggi Green Energy fuel cell park, uses 21 units from FuelCell Energy to supply low carbon baseload electricity to the grid and thermal energy for the local district heating system.
However, there are plans to install 63 MW of generating capacity at a former sand mine in Beacons Falls, Connecticut, US. Here, FuelCell Energy will supply 21 units to supply power to the local grid. The developers have mentioned that the proposed fuel cell park would have the advantage of occupying just a tenth of that required by an equivalent ground-mounted solar PV alternative, and would generate electricity continuously.
OK, these large scale plants cited for Dubai and the US have yet to be built. But stationary fuel cells are become an established technology in locations where the economic climate is helpful. Also in Connecticut – which classifies fuel cells as eligible under its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – Bloom Energy has just commissioned a 400 kW fuel cell system to provide energy for the Comcast Regional HQ building in Berlin. It may be small, but the system will provide most of the building’s energy needs. Back in Korea, Doosan Fuel Cell has just switched-on its latest six-cell, 2.4 MW installation, taking its total to 35 fuel cells in the country.
From a base of plants that serve buildings, larger fuel cell projects to generate power for export to electricity grids and heat for district heating are on their way.