Dairy Methane Used in Fuel Cell Trials

Hydrogen isn’t the only catalyst to power a fuel cell. Powerco and Australian Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited (CFCL) have formed a partnership to conduct trials of a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) energy system developed by CFCL that can run off of natural gas, biomethane or ethanol.

A dairy farm located in the New Zealand city of Taranaki will host the power trial, according to a report in The Daily News of New Plymouth. Fuel cell systems designed by CFCL, which is based in Australia, are best suited to generate between 500 W and 10 kW of power for both domestic and commercial use. The partnership and demonstration site agreement is the result of 12 years of research and development, and AUD 130 million (US $100.7 million) of investment by CFCL. Powerco, which is a utility company based in New Zealand, views the SOFC as a way to establish a distributed energy network in the mostly rural county. “Powerco recognizes that this technology shows the potential of distributed generation around the world – electricity generated at the point of use rather than through centralized systems and extensive transmission networks,” Chief Executive Steven Boulton said. In addition to supporting the trial of the fuel cells in New Zealand, Powerco will establish a New Zealand-based university scholarship to evaluate the trial of the fuel cells. The SOFC scheduled for the demonstration project is a 1 kW combined heat and power unit that can supply enough electricity and heat for an average home. How much power and heat the unit will provide to the dairy is unknown, but the companies have a contract with the dairy for a two-year trial beginning in 2005. If the demonstration needs some more time the companies have the option of extending the contract for an extra four years.

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