DOE awarding $3.0M cost-share contract to FuelCell Energy for solid oxide electrolyzer; converting excess electricity to H2
FuelCell Energy, Inc. is developing a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) system to convert excess electricity during periods of low power demand into hydrogen efficiently. The US Department of Energy (DOE) is supporting this development with a $3.0 million cost-share contract to advance SOEC system design that will be added to the Advanced Technology backlog for the fourth quarter of 2016.
The market for energy storage is significant for high efficiency and flexible long duration storage that is affordable for rate payers. The energy storage market is expanding as utilities adjust to manage increased levels of intermittent renewable power generation supplying the electric grid. Annual global energy storage deployments are projected to increase to approximately 7 to 9 gigawatts by 2020 with continued increases thereafter. The SOEC solution being supported with this DOE funding meets these needs for both utility-scale applications as well as on-site opportunities.
Efficient conversion of power to hydrogen is the first step of the solid oxide energy storage system, using hydrogen as an energy carrier. When power is needed, the hydrogen is cleanly and efficiently converted back into power using the same solid oxide system in fuel cell power generation mode.
Suitable for installation adjacent to existing electrical substations, this easy-to-site solution enables long-duration energy storage with a process that has a high round-trip efficiency from power-to-storage and then back-to-power.
FuelCell Energy’s natural gas or biogas fueled SOFC technology generates industry-leading electrical efficiency of approximately 60%. When used in energy storage systems the power generation efficiency will be significantly higher since the cells will be producing power from pure hydrogen instead of methane. Combined with high efficiency electrolysis, this solid oxide based energy storage system is expected to be capable of round trip energy efficiency above 70%.
The DOE contract continues the development of the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology for hydrogen production using electrolysis through a solid oxide electrolyzer cell (SOEC).
Hydrogen produced from SOEC can be stored and used for grid-power, hydrogen fueling stations or for industrial purposes as an alternative to natural gas reforming. SOEC can also be applied as a clean and highly efficient solution for storing excess power produced by intermittent technologies when their output exceeds the needs of the electric grid.
Previously, the DOE awarded a contract for FuelCell Energy to install and operate a 400 kW SOFC system located at a host site and connected to the electric grid. Design of the system, consisting of two 200 kW power plants, is nearing completion and a first prototype is under construction. FuelCell Energy and the DOE are evaluating the most appropriate location for the project.