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Kyocera, Osaka Gas, Aisin, Chofu and Toyota Motor complete co-development of SOFC residential co-gen system; on sale in April

15 March 2012

Kyocera Corporation, Osaka Gas Co., Ltd., Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd., Chofu Seisakusho Co., Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corporation have completed co-development of a residential-use solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) co-generation system, the ENE-FARM Type S.

Enefarm
Components of the ENE-FARM Type S. The cell stack generates power through chemical reaction between hydrogen reformed from utility gas and oxygen in the air. The module contains the fuel reformer and the cell stack, and is covered with a thermal insulator to maintain a high temperature. A desulfurizer removes the sulfur odorant in the utility gas to prevent the cell stack and other parts from deterioration. The inverter converts DC generated by the cell stack into AC. The hot-water storage tank stores heat exhausted from the power generator as hot-water. A back-up boiler supplies hot-water and heating in case the hot-water storage tank is empty. Click to enlarge.

The ENE-FARM Type S achieves a power generation efficiency of 46.5% (LHV), the highest level yet for a residential-use fuel cell, according to Kyocera. Within the co-development agreement, Kyocera produces the cell stack; Aisin the generation units with the cell stack incorporated into it; Chofu the hot-water supply and heating unit using exhausted heat; and Osaka Gas will commence sales of the system on 27 April 2012 (only available to the Japanese market). The companies will successively expand their production operations and will strive to promote the widespread use of this SOFC system.

The companies submitted 121 units in total to the Demonstrative Research on Solid Oxide Fuel Cell project undertaken by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the New Energy Foundation.

ENE-FARM Type S utilizes ceramic electrolyte for the power generating cell stack which achieves a high operating temperature of 700 to 750 degrees Celsius. This high temperature heat can be efficiently used as energy to reform utility gas to hydrogen and thus a high power generation efficiency level of 46.5% is achieved, with an overall energy efficiency of 90.0% (LHV).

The SOFC system includes a hot-water supply and heating unit which uses exhausted heat with a 90-liter storage tank to utilize the high temperature heat exhausted during power generation, as well as a high efficiency latent heat recovery type hot-water supply heating unit for the back-up boiler.

The system eliminates annual CO2 emissions of about 1.9 tons while also reducing annual energy costs of about ¥76,000 (US$916) compared to ordinary gas-powered hot-water supply and heating units.

Due to the low number of parts and small quantity of exhaust energy, a compact design was made possible for both the power generation unit and the hot-water supply and heating unit, thus allowing it to be installed even at homes with limited installation space. In the future, the companies also plan to expand use of the system to apartment buildings.

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Great news.
In my view this is THE bridging technology to a clean energy nuclear future.
At present gas provides ~20% of the energy use in the US.
At 35$% efficiency in generation and transmission, this could up that to 50% without increasing the amount consumed.

Of course, part of the reason that gas is burnt relatively inefficiently as the moment is that they are using is to badck up wind, which is a very poor use of the gas.

This would mean that the countryside might be saved,together with its wildlife, from those absurd contraptions which ruin the efficient running of the grid.

The problem with this scheme is that it's only got good efficiency if the waste heat is needed; otherwise, it's got about a 25% penalty compared to combined-cycle turbines. If you need lots of heat during a time of low electric demand, it creates the same issue as wind farms.

If this was combined with a heat pump so that it could be either a source or sink of electricity as grid conditions required, it would be much more flexible.

I don't really see a problem with excess heat generation for a number of reasons:
The hot water is stored in a tank, so there is no problem with slightly varying demand.
These sort of systems which are being installed in Japan are in micro grids, so bursts of high electricity demand can be accomodated.

I don't know the position in all regions of climate, but at least in the UK high electricity demand corresponds on a seasonal basis with high hot water demand, so they would peak nicely together.

There is of course no real difficulty in supplying additional power from the grid and either using combined cycle or nuclear to supplement.

If excess heat isn't a problem, what do you do when the water tank hits its temperature limit... and how does the grid handle it when lots of them reach that limit and switch to standby all at once?  Those who made noise over the sudden shutdowns of wind farms ought to have the same concerns about these, as generation is decoupled from electric demand.

Recoupling via heat pumps and possibly use of the FC system for space heat as well as DHW is one way to address the issue.  I've been over this issue for a while.

Guys, the report says 46.5% electric efficiency and 90% when heat recovery is also considered. The alternative is burning the gas with probably also 90% heat recovery and no electricity. SOFC home generation systems has been under development for some years now but now it seems they are getting close to prime time where they have a system that is small and inexpensive enough to be marketed. Get the price right for such a system and it will be very big business indeed.

How big? The stat from IEA (see link below) shows that the residential and commercial sector used as much natural gas for heating as the utilities used for for power. IEA data also shows that natural gas made about 25% of all electricity in the US so if every residential and commercial user of natural gas got such a SOFC system it could roughly supply 20% of all US electricity (about 25% times 46.5%/60% markdown to adjust for lower efficiency of SOFC versus combined cycle). That would be most or all of the electricity used in residential and commercial applications.

In other words, the US could shot down about half of its coal power plants if this SOFC could be priced right. That is going to be difficult though. An alternative is to use a small combustion engine. VW is developing this but it has less electric efficiency and also more noise than the SOFC.


http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_cons_sum_dcu_nus_a.htm

http://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/index.cfm?page=electricity_home#tab2

Variations in demand vs supply are not remotely of the same order as they are for a system with a high penetration of wind.

Spain for instance has a nominal ~105 of the grid from wind.
Arbitrarily that can vary between zero output, right up to over 100% in very windy weather.

Since we are talking about integrated systems, then not only could bleed valves be installed if it was not possible to handle any more hot water, but additional electricity could be supplied from the grid in the normal manner.

The swings are not remotely on the scale they are for wind, and it is all on-demand power, whereas with wind shortages and surpluses can happen at any time.

Wind backup in the UK at any rate has to be pretty much one for one.

In the UK at least most people use gas fired central heating through radiators.
This would feed the hot water into the radiators.
Perhaps you are thinking of some sort of air source heating.

Again for the UK I can only see a very marginal amount of backup needed.

S/be Spain has a nominal 10%

Domestic hot water uses 25+% of the e-energy consumed in our all electric homes on an average daily basis. NG-SG co-gen systems could certainly supply both essential home heating and domestic hot water during cool/cold months. What to do with the surplus heat during the hot season remains a problem to be solved. An efficient heat to electricity converter would have to be added together with a possible feed back to the grid, if and when required.

These units could be a good solution for Japan to replace Nuke power units and for USA to replace Coal fired power stations with surplus cheap SG for the next 100+ years.

@Harvey:
It depends on demand in the particular country. Here in the UK electricity demand peaks in the winter right along with demand for hot water for our water based central heating systems.
In the summer the hot water is only used for showers and so on, and electricity demand is also minimal.
They should be a pretty good match without getting too fancy.
Countries with a high demand for electricity for air conditioning are in a very different position.
Japanese demand peaks surprisingly heavily in the summer, far more than in the winter.

This is targeted to sell for about $20,000 plus installation. It is a step forward. But at that price, it won't be a game changer.

they give the annual savings but NOT the purchase price. that's a tip-off it's way overpriced.

The source says it costs ¥2,751,000 that is 33k USD at current exchange rate. It delivers 700Watt of electricity and 740W of heat. This is not enough for a US household. You would probably need two systems for a standard house. So 66k USD. This is still an experiment in my view.

I think the combustion natural gas engine with heat recovery is a more viable near term solution for home electricity and heating. If VW can make one that is a quite as a gas burner it could be interesting.

Japan is just ramping up production. It is in the low thousands at the moment:
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2012/01/japan-20120115.html

It is the next stage to really take out cost as production builds.
The Japanese are quite good at that.

This is still expensive, but would generate high enough temperatures to run absorption cooling for your home in the summer.

If they could get a 1 kW system for maybe $10,000 it might just be popular. The one draw back of SOFCs is they do not want to be thermally cycled a lot of times. You can turn them down, but cold to hot maybe 100 times and the seals crack.

Honda sells a 1KW micro-CHP system already:

http://world.honda.com/news/2011/c110203Micro-Combined-Heat-Power-System/index.html

1KWe 2.5KWt

See also:

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2011/05/honda-20110523.html

Also nearer commercial viability than SOFC systemes are PEMs from various manufacturers.
They are still more expensive than using a genset, but have greater electrical efficiency.

At least in the UK, systems like this can produce electricity cheaper than the utility sell it to you but not cheaper than they will buy it from you. But this is not allowing for the heat. The gas cost of producing heat from 90% efficient condensing boiler is marginally cheaper than from the above system allowing for selling electricity to grid.

Which is why systems like the Baxi Ecogen is designed to match the domestic electricity consumption, and I guess why this system has a small SOFC and a sizable "back-up" boiler. The alternative would be SOFC (or PEM or ICE) plus heat pump as E-P suggested.

With an SOFC you just have to take some of the sulfur out of the natural gas, with a PEM you have to reform it to H2. The PEM does not give high enough temperatures to run an absorption cooling unit for the home in the summer.

If the SOFC is designed like the Franklin unit with copper ceria, the sulfur does not produce deposits and you do not even have to clean up the natural gas. The temperature cycling sealing issues can be worked around, but the cost has to be brought down first.

Apparently we're back to denial of the "surface plasmon" effect announced by NASA Langley Research Center. Hiding from this technology will not make it go away - anymore than talking down motor cars did last century.

The Japanese are doing a fine job of developing micro-CHP and we applaud this latest effort. The SOFC is simply too expensive in this system - even with a chiller component.

This NASA study from Glenn Research Center might help some come to grips with the fact this technology is actively being developed for home CHP systems. Not just by Ross and the Greek company. The NASA scientists named on the presentation are:

Gustave C. Fralick
John D. Wrbanek, Susan Y. Wrbanek,
Janis Niedra (ASRC)

http://1.usa.gov/zKKKy1

There are at least six active theories for the CF effect. Widom Larsen also claim it is "not nuclear fusion."

I think the troll is mis-posting in his hurry.

No. Simply pointing out how SOFC is too expensive compared to non-radiative nuclear - slated to cost $1k for 10kW heat energy.

Trolls will challenge this.

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