PERC-funded fuel cell research projects at a glance

January 1, 2002 By    

Nuvera Fuel Cells Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. has received $396,000 to assess the performance of 5-kilowatt propane fuel cell prototypes for telecommunications applications. A telecommunications tower demonstration project will be constructed in a highly visible urban area, perhaps Los Angeles. If the system performs as expected, Nuvera envisions a follow-up program in conjunction with PERC and environmental regulatory authorities in California and one or more telecommunicaitons service providers to demonstrate propane telecom fuel cell power systems under field conditions. It is expected that these activities will create the opportunity for Nuvera to commercialize fuel cell power systems for telecommunications applications that use propane as the primary fuel.

Global Thermoelectric Inc. of Calgary, Canada, has received $500,000 from PERC toward a $1.4 million project to develop propane-fueled, 5-kilowatt, solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) power generators for residential and small commercial / industrial markets. The project involves the development of a reliable, low-cost, propane fuel processor, which will be based on the adaptation of existing natural gas fuel processing technology. According to Global Thermoelectric, no other fuel cell technology is as promising for small-scale systems with high efficiency and ease of operation on propane fuel. The project seeks to ensure that the advantages of SOFC technology can be utilized to greatest advantage within the propane industry by opening up a substantial new year-round market for propane sales used for on-site power generation.

PERC has granted itself $85,100 to continue a two-year council to advance fuel cell technology toward commercialization using propane as the fuel source. In the first two years, technologies and manufacturers were evaluated, resulting in five fuel cell projects. Funding this next year will allow these efforts to continue, moving PERC development projects on to demonstration projects to prove and show the technologies. Funds will allow Council representatives to continue to promote propane as a key fuel in national efforts to advance fuel cell technology, including advanced development programs for solid-oxide fuel cells.

Yellowstone National Park, in partnership with the Department of Energy, in 2000 received $60,000 toward a 4.5-kilowatt Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell (from H Power Corp. of Clifton, N.J.) demonstration project at the West Entrance. Due to be up and running in the spring, the propane fuel cell will provide electricity for entrance operations such as fee collection, office functions, etc. The project is twofold: First, the unit will be a prototype that could be expanded to other locations throughout the park. Secondly, the unit will promote visitor education and encourage the use of environmentally preferable alternatives for energy production. The unit will be exposed to more than a million visitors a year. PERC has already installed a 1,000-gallon underground tank for the endeavor.

Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus, Ohio, in 2000 was awarded $85,000 toward a demonstration program for a propane micro-channel fuel cell reformer. According to Battelle, micro-reformers have the potential to make propane a preferred fuel source for fuel cells. The device achieves highly efficient and tightly controlled reformer reactions in a very compact unit.

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