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Stationary Fuel Cells

Potential Applications

Photo of stationary fuel cellStationary power is the most mature application for fuel cells. Stationary fuel cell units are used for backup power, power for remote locations, stand-alone power plants for towns and cities, distributed generation for buildings, and co-generation (in which excess thermal energy from electricity generation is used for heat).

Approximately, 600 systems that produce 10 kilowatts or more have been built and operated worldwide to date, most fueled by natural gas. Phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFCs) have typically been used for large-scale applications, but molten carbonate and solid oxide designs have begun to compete with PAFCs and may be commercialized in a few years.

UTC residential fuel cell It is estimated that more than a thousand smaller stationary fuel cells (less than 10 kilowatts) have been built and operated to power homes and provide backup power. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells fueled with natural gas or hydrogen are the primary design used for these smaller systems.

Current Applications

Stationary fuel cell generators for residential use are not yet on the market. Although many stationary fuel cells are being researched, developed, and demonstrated around the world, currently only one system is commercially available in the United States—a 200-kilowatt (PAFC) system produced by UTC Fuel Cells.

Demonstration Projects & Programs

Fuel Cells Provide Electricity and Heat to the U.S. Postal Service's Anchorage Mail Handling Facility

In 2000, Chugach Electric Association installed a 1-Megawatt fuel cell system at the U.S. Postal Service's Anchorage Mail Handling Facility. The system consists of five natural-gas-powered 200-kilowatt PC25 fuel cells developed by UTC Fuel Cells—the only commercially available fuel cell in the world. The fuel cell station provides primary power for the facility as well as half of the hot water needed for heating. Excess electricity from the system flows back to the grid for use by other customers.

The fuel cell system emits much less carbon into the air than a combustion-based power plant-less than one percent of the amount typically produced from generating the same amount of power. However, the system is quite expensive, costing about seven times as much per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced than energy from a new natural gas fired turbine system.

South Windsor Fuel Cell Project

The Town of South Windsor, Connecticut, initiated a stationary fuel cell demonstration project in October 2002. South Windsor, with funding from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, installed a natural-gas-powered 200-kilowatt PC25 fuel cell system, developed by UTC Fuel Cells, at South Windsor High School.

The system will provide heat and electricity to the high school as well as learning opportunities for students. The school has developed an extensive fuel cell curriculum for students, and computer monitors will allow students to track the operation of the fuel cell. South Windsor High School has also been designated as a regional emergency shelter, and the fuel cell system will be able to provide power in the event of an electric power outage. UTC Fuel Cells intends to utilize the project as an international demonstration site for fuel cell technology.

Department of Defense (DOD) Fuel Cell Demonstration Program

The DOD Fuel Cell Demonstration Program, managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was begun in the mid-90's to advance the use of PAFCs at DOD installations. Under the program, stationary fuel cells were installed at 30 sites that represent a broad spectrum of facilities and locations throughout the major Armed Services. The fuel cells are used for providing primary electrical power, back-up electrical power, and heat.

DOD has also begun a residential fuel cell demonstration program that will focus on polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells ranging in size from 1 to 20 kilowatts. The demonstration will include twenty-one PEM fuel cells at nine U.S. military bases. The first units were installed in January of 2002.

DOE's Distributed Energy and Electric Reliability Program Road Shows

DOE’s Distributed Energy and Electric Reliability Program hosts an ongoing series of traveling road shows, intended to help building code inspectors, fire marshals, and others learn more about distributed energy technologies, including hydrogen and fuel cells. With its partners, DOE tailors each road show workshop to the needs of each region. There is no registration fee to participate, and any city or county administrator or council member can contact DOE to request a workshop.