VTT develops a unique fuel cell system: trials under way
Grid electricity from natural and bio gas using fuel cell technology
Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology is showing promise with regard to future electricity production. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has built a system that uses fuel cells to produce grid electricity from natural gas. What makes the system unique is that the electric power produced comes from a single 10 kW planar SOFC stack. The technology is being developed as part of the Tekes Fuel Cell Programme.
Construction of the large SOFC power plants of the future will require high-power fuel cell stacks. This is the first time a 10 kW power class planar SOFC fuel stack is being operated as part of a complete fuel cell system.
The system is currently undergoing endurance testing to determine component reliability, durability and development needs. Some of the system’s components are prototypes developed at VTT that have not yet reached mass production. Since the beginning of November 2010 the system has completed more than 1,500 hours of reliable and continuous operation. The electricity produced equates to the average annual consumption of five apartments in an apartment block.
SOFC fuel cell technology is an extremely low-emission energy source. The SOFC technology can be used to utilize a wide range of different fuels, including biogas, which is normally difficult to exploit efficiently using other technologies.
Lappeenranta University of Technology and Aalto University are among those participating in the project, which is coordinated by VTT and jointly funded by Tekes - the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation and Finnish industrial companies. Development of the system’s power electronics, used in transforming direct current produced by the SOFC into alternating current suitable for the grid, was carried out at Lappeenranta University of Technology. Aalto University has participated in the unit’s mechanical design. The SOFC stack for the system was supplied by Versa Power Systems Inc. of Canada.
Apart from funding, Finnish companies are also involved in development and gathering of experience regarding the application of their own products to SOFC systems. Wärtsilä Finland Oy, among others, is exploiting experiences garnered under the research project in its own SOFC system development work.