DOE awards FuelCell Energy additional $8M for Phase 2 ARPA-E project with differentiated solid oxide platform
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded FuelCell Energy $8 million in Phase 2 funding for the previously announced ARPA-E project for development of ultra-high efficiency SOFC systems for power generation (earlier post). This additional funding commitment from the DOE represents another key step in FuelCell Energy’s path to commercialize its high efficiency solid oxide technology. The multi-stack module that forms the core of the system is a modular building block that is scalable for larger systems.
The ARPA-E project, under the “Innovative Natural-gas Technologies for Efficiency Gain in Reliable and Affordable Thermochemical Electricity-generation” (INTEGRATE) program is developing system approaches to achieving ultra-high electrical efficiency (>70%) in SOFC power generation systems.
After successfully executing Phase 1 design activities, the company has been awarded an additional $8 million of funding to proceed to Phase 2 to design and build an ultra-high efficiency SOFC sub-megawatt power generation prototype system. This project includes the development of improved pressurized stack module designs, critical to supporting the configuration of very high-efficiency power generation systems, while also enhancing the efficiency of solid oxide-based electrolysis and energy storage systems.
Separately, the company reports making progress on the previously announced Modular Solid Oxide Electrolysis project funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to advance the use of its solid oxide platform for high efficiency electrolysis. Electrolysis uses electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, the opposite of fuel cell operation. When solid oxide cells are used for electrolysis, they are capable of producing hydrogen much more efficiently than currently available technology.
Our proprietary solid oxide technology is differentiated by its high efficiency in converting electricity into hydrogen through electrolysis and utilization of the same fuel cell stack to recall that hydrogen from its integrated long-duration hydrogen energy storage to produce zero-carbon hydrogen-based power generation. FuelCell Energy’s platform has the ability to extend the life and usefulness of existing nuclear plants and firm-up the capacity of intermittent renewable technologies.
Additionally, electrolysis technology supports the hydrogen economy by providing carbon-free, clean hydrogen for transportation, power generation, agricultural uses, and a host of other industrial applications such as making steel. Our solid oxide platform will allow us to add long-duration energy storage, electrolysis, and global sub-megawatt power generation to our commercial offerings, increasing the Company’s total addressable commercial markets.—Jason Few, President and CEO of FuelCell Energy
A solid oxide electrolysis (SOEC) system can run even more efficiently with the addition of thermal heat energy. This EERE project focuses on optimizing the operating parameters for solid oxide electrolysis for high efficiency hydrogen production.
Under the program, the Company has built and is operating a SOEC system capable of producing up to 20 kg/day of hydrogen. The test operation has thus far demonstrated an electrical efficiency above 90% and identified opportunities for increasing efficiency to 100% with incorporation of external thermal heat energy.
Later this year, under another previously announced DOE project, the company will demonstrate a 250KW electrolysis system to be located at Idaho National Laboratories (INL). This system will be modified to include hydrogen storage and additional equipment to demonstrate the use of the solid oxide stack in an energy storage application.
This platform, which is currently being designed and built, will utilize hydrogen produced by the stack, which is then stored and later returned to the stack, operating in fuel cell mode to produce power from the stored hydrogen. This application, called Reversible Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (RSOFC), where the stack alternates between electrolysis and power generation operation, could be a key enabler to the long duration energy storage needed to incorporate intermittent renewable energy sources, further advancing the clean energy transition.