$500 M to be Spent on Breakthrough ‘Peoples’ Fuel Cell

Four new government-industry projects in the United States have been selected as the vanguards of a $500 million, ten-year effort to produce breakthrough fuel cells that will shatter current cost barriers. Some of the projected cells could use renewable fuel sources.

WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-08-29 [SolarAccess.com] Four new government-industry projects in the United States have been selected as the vanguards of a $500 million, ten-year effort to produce breakthrough fuel cells that will shatter current cost barriers. Some of the projected cells could use renewable fuel sources. The goal of the U.S. Energy Department is to cut the costs of fuel cells as low as one-tenth the cost of currently marketed systems and to one-third the cost of more advanced concepts now beginning to reach commercial readiness. At $400 per kilowatt or less, these future fuel cells could find widespread market acceptance well beyond the niche applications of today’s systems. The objective is to move the low-polluting technology into mainstream energy markets where the fuel cells could eventually be used in a wide variety of applications, from generating electricity at central power plants or at the point where power is consumed, to vehicles and military applications. The DOE has formed the Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance, made up of commercial developers, universities, national laboratories, and government agencies, to develop an all-solid-state concept. “This is a major drive to make fuel cells the technology of choice for a wide range of tomorrow’s energy needs,” says energy secretary Spencer Abraham. “We know these advanced, clean power systems offer ways to strengthen the reliability of our electricity supply while reducing pollutants. The final hurdle is cost, and with the technology push we are announcing today, we intend to overcome that hurdle.” DOE has selected proposals from Honeywell, Siemens Westinghouse Power, the team of Delphi Automotive Systems and Battelle, and the team of Cummins Power Generation, and McDermott Technology as the winners in a competition to begin developing ultralow cost fuel cells. Fuel cells are being installed commercially, but high costs have limited their use to customers that demand reliable premium-quality onsite power. Most fuel cells are custom manufactured and assembled individually. Because fuel cells do not rely on combustion and operate more efficiently than traditional power plants, they release 25 to 50 percent less carbon than natural gas or coal-fired power generators. Honeywell of Torrence, California, will design and develop a modular 3- to 10-kilowatt solid oxide fuel cell system for a wide range of power-generation needs. The self-contained prototype will operate on a variety of fuels and be designed as a stand-alone power plant for a specific market, or integrated into a larger system. DOE will provide $74 million for the ten-year project, with Honeywell contributing $59 million. Siemens Westinghouse Power of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will develop a 7- to 10-kilowatt solid oxide combined heat and power system for residential applications, and a 3- to 10-kilowatt auxiliary power unit for automotive applications. Working with Siemens are Fuel Cell Technologies, Blasch Precision Ceramics, Georgia Institute of Technology, Lennox Industries, the Trane Company, Dominion Resources, Ford Motor, Eaton Corp and Newport News. DOE will provide $48 million while the Siemens team will provide $33 million. Delphi Automotive of Flint, Michigan and Battelle of Columbus, Ohio, will develop and test a solid oxide design that can be mass produced at a low cost for automotive and truck auxiliary power units, distributed power generation and military markets. They will demonstrate a 5-kilowatt system that operates on common fuels. The University of Utah will participate as a consultant. DOE will provide $75 million while the Delphi team will contribute $61 million. Cummins Power Generation of Minneapolis, Minnesota and McDermott Technology of Alliance, Ohio, will pursue stationary and mobile markets by producing a 10 kW system that is quiet, reliable and emits virtually no pollutants. It will be designed to compete with (and possibly replace) current reciprocating engines of the same size. The project accelerates McDermott’s existing solid oxide fuel cell program, and makes use of Cummins’ skill in integrating systems and penetrating a variety of small-size consumer and commercial markets. DOE will contribute $74 million while the Cummins/McDermott team will provide $92 million.
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