Fuel Cells

The fuel cell is a developing technology that offers the potential for high electric generation efficiency and very low environmentally harmful emissions. Unlike conventional power generation systems that rely on combustion or other sources of heat energy, a fuel cell converts chemical energy to dc electricity directly, via electrochemical reactions. The dc electricity can then be converted to ac electricity using solid state inverters.

Similar to a solar cell, the fuel cell may be thought of as a battery that is continually fed with fresh chemical energy and does not run down or require recharging. The process converts a fuel such as natural gas to hydrogen-rich gas through catalytic reaction with steam. The hydrogen-rich gas is reacted, or oxidized, with oxygen from the air to produce electricity and thermal energy. The process is the reverse of hydrolysis of water, in which a direct current is passed through water, decomposing the water to hydrogen and oxygen.

Currently, fuel cells are usually not commercially cost-competitive, absent of support in the form of federal or state grants, and there is still only a limited track record of proven reliability. There are, however, some near-term niche markets. One is for applications requiring high-quality power, or power conditioning for computers and other sensitive electronic equipment. Currently, this market is served by UPS systems. In these applications, the value of useful thermal energy provided by the fuel cell and the avoidance of required investment in and operations and maintenance of standby generators and UPS systems can offset some of the life-cycle cost premium.

To date, there has been widespread federal government support for R&D and market entry due to the upside potential for high-efficiency and environmentally benign operation. As the technology continues to develop, production and O&M costs will likely continue to decline.

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable Energy Eco Friendly

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment