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Research Papers

Operating Experiences on Commercial Fuel Cell Units for Back Up Power Generation

[+] Author and Article Information
Mauro Scagliotti

Department of Power Generation Systems, ERSE SpA, Via Rubattino 54, I-20134 Milano, Italymauro.scagliotti@erse-web.it

Carmen Valli

Department of Power Generation Systems, ERSE SpA, Via Rubattino 54, I-20134 Milano, Italycarmen.valli@erse-web.it

J. Fuel Cell Sci. Technol 7(3), 031014 (Mar 16, 2010) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3207877 History: Received September 12, 2008; Revised October 29, 2008; Published March 16, 2010; Online March 16, 2010

Extensive residential demonstration programs and the needs for innovative and reliable back up power systems are driving the development and diffusion of small (<10kWe) stationary fuel cell power systems. Low temperature polymer electrolyte fuel cell (PEFC) power systems are particularly suitable for back up and UPS applications due to short start up times, whereas for small cogenerative residential applications both PEFC and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) are emerging as promising technologies. The technical and economical viabilities of fuel cell based systems have been already demonstrated for a few niche applications such as back up system with high autonomy. Nevertheless fuel cell technologies are not yet mature. Durability and reliability are of great concern and have to be specifically addressed. Real world experiences and extensive laboratory testing are paramount for the development of reliable products, as well as to harmonize and refine codes and standards required for the market entry. This paper presents and discusses the results of a 3 year experience on commercial PEFC 1 kWe units. Basic characterization, cycling, and steady state endurance testing data are analyzed herein with a focus on power system performance, reliability, and degradation issues. End user and system integrator testing approaches were applied. Power system response to load demand and electrical efficiency were measured following as much as possible the prescriptions of codes and standards. The influences of operating and environmental conditions on system efficiency were investigated as well. Positive results were achieved and, in particular, system availability resulted extremely high. Steady state long term endurance tests evidenced, however, critical durability and safety issues to be improved.

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Copyright © 2010 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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References

Figures

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Figure 1

Cartridge bus power output, average cartridge temperature, and inlet air temperature from the start up to the fully stabilized standby state recorded during a remotely controlled start up test in the first 50 functioning hours of Unit A

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Figure 2

Histograms showing the gross power output of each cartridge at three different operating conditions: standby, half load, and full load. These data were recorded during the first 20 h of the overall functioning time of Unit B.

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Figure 3

Overall cartridge bus voltage of Unit B and hydrogen flow rate versus time of the day with a data recording time of 1 s

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Figure 4

Electrical efficiency (HHV) of the three units as a function of the net dc regulated power output. The behaviors of the efficiencies of the net dc output and of the gross cell cartridge output are reported.

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Figure 5

Difference between gross (cartridge bus) and net (dc regulated output) power output as a function of the net power output during a load test carried out on Unit B after about 25 h of functioning time

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Figure 6

Load cycle applied to all the three ReliOn units during the charging-discharging cycle of the metal hydride storage

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Figure 7

Electrical efficiency (HHV, net dc regulated power output) and hydrogen consumption as a function of the unit overall operating time during the continuous load endurance test of Unit A

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Figure 8

Electrical efficiency (HHV, net dc regulated power output) and hydrogen consumption as a function of the unit overall operating time during the last period of the continuous load endurance test of Unit B

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Figure 9

Electrical efficiency (HHV, net dc regulated power output) of Unit B at 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the rated output power after 25 h, 580 h, and 1530 h of functioning time

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Figure 10

Results of a load test performed on Unit B after 1655 h of functioning time. The output of the power system consisting of Unit B and battery bank is reported together with the cartridge bus power output as a function of the time of day.

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Figure 11

Difference between gross (cartridge bus) and net (dc regulated output) power output as a function of the net power output during a load test carried out on Unit B after about 1530 h of functioning time

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