Green Building magazine :


In this special feature, regular contributor to Green Building magazine, Gavin Harper has assembled this special supplement for us looking at hydrogen fuel and fuel cells ...
The recent flurry of activity by the scientific and engineering community has brought the fuel cell into the public eye, with the subject being mentioned on the Green Building forum, prompting a flurry of activity on the subject. We decided to cover the topic with a round-up of some current projects, interviews with people at the centre of the action, and an exposition of the technology, with the aim of attempting to

answer some of the questions posed, and investigating the real capabilities of this technology. Many would believe that the fuel cell was a recent innovation, however, its roots can be traced back to as early as 1838. Sir William Robert Grove is widely heralded as the father of the fuel cell . He was born in 1811, in Swansea, Wales, a Welsh lawyer who later applied himself to the mastery of science. He discovered what is known as the Grove gas battery . In 1843 he published a diagram and made a primitive model. However, it was not really until much later (in 1959), that a fuel cell with a sizable power output (5kW) was developed by British engineer, Francis Thomas Bacon.


GreenBuildingmagazine - Spring08

because of the chemical reactions that are occurring. Why not just use hydrogen? Well. when town gas contained up to 50% hydrogen.Spring08 . powering a portable electronic device or illuminating a lamp in your home. for example direct methanol fuel cells . As we will see later. to form water. this change is reversible ‒ adding energy to the battery allows the electrodes to change back into their original state. Simplified diagram of how a fuel cell works. the UK has already changed from one piped gas to another variety with different characteristics ‒ it s not inconceivable could happen again.8 volts. Looking at the anode. Figure 1. each cell produces a potential difference of around 0. they take the next easiest route to reach the other side ‒ this is the electric circuit that allows us to extract useful power from the fuel cell. However. as they would allow us to use existing infrastructure that is currently used to transport petrol and other liquid fuels. we would call our negative How much power does a fuel cell produce? Typically. The fuel in a fuel cell is not burned. another fuel is used which is a hydrogen carrier . The idea was broached on the Green Building Forum. this could be powering a motor in a car or scooter. There is also another key difference. in that the reactants are continuously replenished allowing the cell to operate for much longer periods. of a hydrogen infrastructure being a useless duplication of infrastructure that is already present for distributing energy ‒ namely our gas and electricity networks. the methanol acts as a transport mechanism for getting hydrogen to the fuel cell. The nafion plastic membrane is porous to protons and allows them to pass through. How do fuel cells work? Let s take a look at what happens inside a fuel cell. whilst also conducting electricity. The catalyst facilitates the chemical reaction which comes next. there are some key differences. As the electrons travel round the circuit. There are two sides to the fuel cell (see Figure 1). However. These hydrogen carriers could have an important part to play in a transition to a hydrogen economy. The cathode is perpetually exposed to oxygen. where in the case of disposable batteries. with some fuel cells. Allan Jones remains confident that gas will continue to flow into the UK for many years yet. In many fuel cells this is supplied as a gas. there are different types of fuel cells. The anode is what we would call our positive terminal or +V and the cathode. think back to before the discovery of North Sea gas. Fuel cells are quiet. and are free from polluting emissions. they do some work . like in an engine. However. and the protons which have travelled through the membrane. A battery is a sealed unit. even silent in operation. but more about that later. all of which follow similar principles. This is to say. Why electrochemical? Because it harnesses the energy made in chemical reactions to produce electrical energy. You might like to think of a fuel cell as being very similar to a battery. When they reach the other side. In a similar way to in a car battery where multiple cells 58 GreenBuildingmagazine . however. Once it has passed through the GDE it comes into contact with the catalyst. the electrodes change over the life of the battery. citing that LPG is easily transportable and can be imported easily. the hydrogen must first diffuse through a gas diffusion electrode (GDE). Instead. A fuel cell s electrodes are catalytic and do not change considerably over the life of the fuel cell. the electrons cannot pass through the membrane. This is a material which allows the gas to pass through to the catalyst. In the case of rechargeable batteries. In a battery. However. the oxygen (which can either be pure oxygen or the oxygen present in air) reacts with the electrons which have travelled through the circuit. natural gas is being used as a carrier for hydrogen. allowing the hydrogen to break into protons and electrons. terminal or -V . however. In this example we are going to look at a proton exchange membrane or polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell. The key fuel in a fuel cell is hydrogen. which generally contains platinum. Our anode is perpetually exposed to hydrogen which is constantly replenished from a supply such as a tank. Fuel cells differ significantly in this respect. as such. being reformed on-site before it enters the fuel cell. whilst also conducting electricity. once all of the reactants are used up. sometimes by using a hydrogen carrier we make the fuel easier to transport and store. the anode and the cathode. their energy is depleted. which is constantly replenished. The two are separated by a plastic membrane made from nafion . In Woking. if the idea of hydrogen flowing through pipes in the street seems an alien one. it must also be noted that there are carbon dioxide emissions as a result of using a hydrogen carrier.What is a fuel cell? A fuel cell is an electrochemical energy conversion device. Fuel cells differ in this respect. Carbon cloths and papers are commonly used as they have the property of being porous to the hydrogen.

It is the simplest of all chemicals. show how both technologies can be successfully integrated providing efficient short term storage. Types of fuel cell The hydrogen economy With peak oil. the state of fuel cell technology can be broken down into a distinct number of types. there are also many champions of a nuclear-hydrogen economy using supposedly cheap nuclear energy to produce hydrogen ‒ this would leave us with a toxic legacy of waste and would negate many of the benefits of a clean hydrogen economy. A fuel cell stack produces a higher voltage than an individual fuel cell. as there is no such thing as a hydrogen mine. or external combustion engines (such as steam and Stirling engines). By transitioning to a hydrogen economy. and the large nitrogen content of the air. you might have used a Hoffman apparatus in science class. which is permanently shrouded in a There are a large number of fuel cell types in research and development by a large number of companies. Indeed. and also the lightest. Whilst this electricity can be generated using clean. and the damage done to the environment. and methane. the fuel cell is not constrained by the Carnot cycle efficiency (that is to say the rule of thermodynamics which govern the efficiency of conventional engines) because the fuel cells do not operate using a thermal cycle. The gas bubbles off from the electrodes and is collected in separate storage containers. cause damage to the ecosystem. Electrolysis At school. In addition. So how is hydrogen made? There are a number of ways that we can get our hydrogen. it is 59 GreenBuildingmagazine . The damage caused by burning carbon based fuels can clearly be seen in places like Los Angeles. The hydrogen economy is one proposed way of meeting our energy needs more sustainably. our energy is currently generated centrally. promote the production of NOX. It is important to note. or in many electrical appliances where we use a number of batteries to create a higher voltage. odourless and tasteless. Fuel cell efficiency One of the great advantages of fuel cells is that unlike conventional heat engines. it can asphyxiate through denying the body access to oxygen. which make them ideal for certain applications.are used to create 12v. Furthermore. The amount of current that a fuel cell produces is largely dependent upon the size of the active area where the chemical reaction is taking place. From practical experience efficiencies of 30% are being attained ‒ which correlates with those figures obtained by Paul in Montreal from Wikipedia on the Green Building Forum. The one disadvantage of electrolysis is that significant amounts of electrical energy are needed for the process. it is dangerous if mixed with air or oxygen because of the fire and explosion risk. when carbon is burned in an internal combustion engine. a greenhouse gas. However. Hydrogen is colourless. so fuel cells can be built up in stacks . Steam reformation By combining high temperature steam. the hydrogen economy promises a future without carbon. Furthermore. people are looking for new solutions to meet our energy needs. It isn t really. and produces water as its only by-product. The hydrogen produced by the electrolysis process is very pure. It is observed that twice as much hydrogen is produced as oxygen. due to losses in transmission and conversion. our carbon based engines still only reach around 20% efficiency. In principle. However. impurities in the fuel lead to sulphurous emissions that lead to acid rain. non toxic. When a carbon based fuel burns. and the possibility of peak coal. green renewable energy. it produces carbon dioxide. which. At the moment. such as the internal combustion engine (the sort you find in your car or generator). This makes sense as we can see that there is twice as much hydrogen in water as oxygen. projects like HARI (see page 64). It can also fit within the framework of our present large scale energy generation infrastructure ‒ and the ability to store it eliminates many of the intermittency problems that are often discussed about renewables. Hydrogen is a fantastic energy carrier and to understand what makes it so good. with the capacity for longer-term storage of energy in hydrogen ‒ and the ability to transport this energy easily or use it as a transport fuel. We do not need to fear running out of hydrogen. which are responsible for the UK s transition to fuels with a lower carbon content ‒ typified by the dash for gas . It is a bit of a myth that hydrogen is a fuel . peak gas and peak uranium. Hydrogen is a near ideal energy carrier and permits a decentralised energy infrastructure ‒ supporting the argument for small scale. personal health problems. where coal was usurped by natural gas as the energy of choice. We have seen the evil of carbon based fuels. Some fuel cells require a very pure form of hydrogen so this is ideal.Spring08 . you need to look at why carbon based energy carriers are so bad. Unfortunately carbon fuels have been burnt with little consideration for future supply. local energy production. fuel cells are theoretically far more efficient than heat engines ‒ which results in extracting more energy from our fuel. A Hoffman apparatus has a reservoir of water through which is passed an electric current. Contrast this to carbon based fuels which are also explosive. engines also emit large amounts of unburnt hydrocarbons. Taking a little bit of time to think about this. coupled with the high temperatures reached inside the engine. However. Hydrogen is the first element on the periodic table for a very special reason. After much development. the future is open for distributed generation. work is still in progress to reach those theoretically attainable efficiencies. further to Paul s comments about energy storage in batteries. Our global prosperity in the past couple of centuries has been built on carbon. that hydrogen is not used as a fuel but as a carrier for energy that is produced using other means. photochemical smog. As a result. and potential future fuel insecurity. VOC s and masses of particulates. we see that the chemical formula for water is H2O. as it is the most abundant element in the universe. can be horribly inefficient. The electric current disassociates the hydrogen from the oxygen in the water. all with their own distinct characteristics.

and for when additional heat is required. wood and other sources of biomass can be heated in a controlled atmosphere without the presence of oxygen. although much development must be done. and the heat produced can also be harnessed (known as co-generation ‒ which is covered later). the silicon junction acts directly on the water where electrolysis occurs.possible to extract hydrogen from this fossil fuel. carbon emissions in the production and distribution of Biomass cannot be ignored. schemes afoot to look at gasifying coal. tri and quad generation Whilst fuel cells are some way off achieving their theoretical maximum efficiency. Because many solid-oxide fuel cells are sensitive to sulphur. This humidification helps with the next step. preheats the gases being supplied to the fuel cell and heats the reformer. which is hydrogen rich as well as containing carbon monoxide and dioxide. The carbon emissions from this source of energy are effectively neutral as the carbon dioxide was taken out of the atmosphere in the first place by the growing plants. near carbon neutral source of energy. Biologically produced hydrogen There are a number of types of algae that use photosynthesis to convert solar energy into hydrogen. and sequestering it. the sulphur must first be scrubbed from the gas to avoid contaminating the fuel cell. Allan Jones explores how fuel cells have the potential to reduce the amount of energy wasted as dumped heat. The output from the fuel cell is direct current (DC) ‒ which must then be rectified into alternating current (AC) and synchronised with the phase and frequency of the grid into which it is being fed. Companies such as TMI in Cleveland. Taking the example of fuel cell combined heat and power from natural gas. Co-generation provides us with lots of low-level heat which could prove useful in local combined heat and power schemes. The process is fairly cheap and inexpensive. it is seen in Figure 2 what supporting equipment is necessary to interface the fundamental unit of the fuel cell to the rest of the building services. Heat generated from the fuel cell is sequestered in a thermal store until it is required. At the moment these processes have only been demonstrated on a small scale. A tri-generation fuel cell. which is the steamreformation of natural gas into hydrogen and carbon dioxide. but research in this area is intense. The gas then passes through a heat exchanger where it is pre-heated before going to the fuel cell. In Woking (see page 66) it can be seen how fuel cells have been selected with power electronics that can work in island mode and maintain the grid frequency in the event Biomass gasification and reformation Biomass has proven itself as a relatively clean. This technology shows promise. This could effectively make biomass with hydrogen extraction a carbon negative fuel. Clean coal? There are vast tracts of coal throughout the world. Whilst some heat is still lost ‒ this is inevitable ‒ the model of producing electricity using decentralised fuel cells is far more attractive than the present model of centralised generation.Spring08 . the waste heat that is produced can be utilised in heating and cooling applications. However the carbon emissions are impossible to ignore. It involves using solar energy to stimulate a silicon junction similar to a photovoltaic cell. It is expected that great strides forward in this area could be made. Agricultural waste. This method does show a lot of promise as it is currently an efficient cheap technology that will work with existing gas-distribution infrastructure. However. however. and mining leaves scars on the landscape which can last for generations. electrical losses designed into a centralised generation scheme (see page 66). 60 GreenBuildingmagazine . However. along with air. There are plans afoot to develop fuel cells which tolerate of sulphur. This helps to balance supply and demand. Ohio are developing fuel cells that may not require this intermediate step and can also run from gases with high sulphur content ‒ such as that produced by agricultural biogas digesters. which is also preheated. This yields a gas ‒ synthesis gas. There are. and Figure 2. Photoelectrolysis Photoelectrolysis is a relatively new unproven technology. organic matter. a gas burner is provided to supplement the heat from the fuel cell. coal is carbon rich ‒ burning it doesn t help global warming. There is also the possibility of sequestering the carbon produced in the gasification process. Co. The hot exhaust from the fuel cell is used to provide heat for the heat exchanger which produces the hot water. extracting the carbon. The gas must then be humidified ‒ waste heat from the fuel cell is used to heat up water to provide humidification. For backup purposes. with the distinction that instead of the energy being converted to electricity.

Additionally. who believe that hydrogen is part of the package in a sustainable energy future. Whilst the buildings and installations that presently feature fuel cells are few and far between. and we are seeing the first batch of designers integrating hydrogen into their homes.Figure 3. At last year s Grove Fuel Cell Symposium. so it is only a matter of time before the first commercially available domestic fuel cell systems are being sold for early adopters . all from a single fuel source ‒ natural gas.Spring08 . steam. LSHC . This capability enables the private wire network to operate independently in the event that the grid fails. were exhibiting a fuel cell combined heat and power (CHP) system.GROVEFUELCELL. A number of announcements and events in the past couple of months have been the catalyst for hydrogen technologies gaining increased prominence in the media. so it s only a matter of time before smaller units become available. In Woking. BAXI. The signs are this perception is rapidly changing. HYDROGEN FUEL TECHNOLOGY For many years. to match the fuel cells operation to the building s need for heat and power. occupying the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre for three days. just a couple of years away. widely regarded as the world s premier fuel cell event. Where the energy from tri-generation goes. Gavin Harper Useful links: WWW. there is bound to be an intensification of press releases. For instance. as it is always seen as intangible . EUROPA . and a number of announcements have shown that hydrogen is beginning to permeate the public s imagination. The technology is in place. CO. quadgeneration is being employed. EU / NEWS / SCIENCE /071011 _1_ EN . enabling the fuel cell quad-gen system to match closely the demand for heating and cooling. there are signs in the air that the technology is gaining momentum. controls will interface with the building management system. the boiler manufacturer BAXI was exhibiting a combined heat and power unit. Things are beginning to happen apace. It s a technology that doesn t ever seem to be covered in much depth in the mainstream. or coupled with absorptive cooling to meet a building s cooling loads in the summer. It is a technology which we can no longer afford to ignore. announcements and interest in the field. The bi-annual Grove Fuel Cell Symposium was held in London recently. hot water.HTM 61 GreenBuildingmagazine . Support for hydrogen has just been bolstered by the European Union. and chilled water for cooling.. they launched a joint technology initiative . to produce the first unplugged hydrogen houses . that could eventually scale down for smaller buildings. even domestic use. and likely to become an increasingly common sight in the next couple of years. electrical losses are reduced.something which is more science-fiction than science fact. of a main grid failure. and so on the 11th of October 2007. innovative early-adopter buildings which integrate fuel cell technology and further development of the field. by providing electricity. COM WWW. All the signs point to exciting times ahead. hydrogen fuel cell technology has been just over the horizon. Additionally. with over €1 billion funding including €470m from the EU coffers. and something that we won t need to worry about for a good couple of years yet. This is accomplished by using the heat for useful applications ‒ heating a building.. A variable fraction of the heat-generated can be diverted into absorptive cooling. a little out of grasp.UK HTTP :// EC . This is bound to stimulate new research. because the electricity is generated close to source. companies and organisations to descend on London for a few days ‒ and with any major event like this. The event acted as a magnet for hydrogen experts. the mainstream boiler manufacturer. the PURE Energy Centre has announced its collaboration with Fuel Cells Scotland (see page 62). which builds upon cogeneration and tri-generation. as the signs are it is coming of age.

000 inhabitants. As well as the technology improving. Gazey intimates. have benefits for everyone. Unfortunately. the ravages of the Shetland weather. It is clear that in a small community such as on Unst. The electrolyser and associated elec-trickery are housed inside the Hy-Pod . Gazey is clear to differentiate the PURE vehicle from 62 GreenBuildingmagazine . Despite being the location of the North Sea oil industry s massive transhipment terminal at Sullum Voe. PURE believes that the economics of the technology are starting to make sense ‒ predicting that fuel cells will decrease in price by up to 50% in the next three years ‒ bringing the technology to a much wider marketplace. The hydrogen produced by the electrolyser is then stored for later use in standard K type cylinders. which often comes out for course attendees if the weather is fine. resourceful Gazey was determined for the same fate not to befall his home island. Being a remote island in the middle of the North Sea. the island is also one of contrasts.PURE hydrogen On the northernmost inhabited island of the British Isles is an unlikely combination of cutting edge energy technology. and the community in which it operates. PURE is developing an internal combustion engine which will run on hydrogen ‒ allowing cheap. spend money on the island and use the services and accommodation. PURE is able to do this because of its novel electrolyser arrangement. who stay. PURE has built itself a formidable reputation in the European fuel cell industry in a relatively short time. retaining skills on the island and diversifying revenue streams. with many from the great and the good of UK and EU parliaments visiting PURE since its establishment. mounted next to the HyPod.Spring08 . the tell-tale signs of bubbling paint betray the secrets of the tinworm beneath. as a result of the visitors to the centre. Power from the turbines is used to heat the building by modified electric heaters. Unst receives more than its fair share of wind. legacy technology to reap the benefits of clean hydrogen gas. Forget Live Earth. It has also been developing hydrogen cooking appliances. This means that over 50% of islanders spend over 20% of their income on fuel. and spare excess power is diverted into the electrolyser unit to produce hydrogen. This is a cost-effective solution. PURE has designed the system to be modular. This opens up many opportunities for shipping the device and rolling out this solution around the world. as on Unst. and avoids the problems of inefficiency and energy-loss associated with having to compress the gas. Energy centre The PURE system is based on the premise that hydrogen should be produced from renewable sources. It can use the hydrogen in a 5kW Plug Power fuel cell which provides electricity on-site. Gavin Harper visits the PURE Energy Centre and talks to Ross Gazey. the island has the highest fuel prices in the United Kingdom because the oil must be shipped back to the UK for refining. there is certainly potential to meet the needs of its 20. Gazey likens the problems facing qualified young people in Unst to the brain drain facing Britain in the past couple of decades. the centre has also created wealth for its community. Policy makers are beginning to sit up and notice. There are moves to increase the amount of energy supplied to the island by wind turbines ‒ and with the best wind resource in Europe. he was instrumental in the founding days of what is known as the PURE Energy Centre . so the bulk of its power is produced by an ageing oil-fired power station on the island. and the state of the art develops day-by-day. the first iteration being the PURE hydrogen barbecue. no man is an island and the close links between PURE. vehicles do not require an MOT! Whilst on many of the cars on the island. However. In addition. with plans to upgrade to two 15kW turbines when some design issues are rectified. The organisation then has a number of options. The lack of opportunities for graduates on the island prompted the community development organisation The Unst Partnership to look at investing in fuel cell technology as a way of putting Unst on the energy map. which he tells me. Unst was the first place in the world to hold a rock concert fuelled on renewable hydrogen! In a technology marketplace which is changing rapidly. and high salt content of the atmosphere do not show on the bodywork of Gazey s car. Looking for opportunities to develop clean energy opportunities for the future. The Shetlands is too distant to be part of the national grid. where highly qualified graduates left the shores of blighty to the US.proudly alluding to the car s eco-credentials. In addition to creating six full-time equivalent jobs on the island. The HyPod has also been equipped to recharge the hydride cylinders inside the PURE hydrogen vehicle. is ABS plastic covered with a green film . There is a hint of irony in its location. Presently this comes courtesy of a pair of 6kW Proven wind turbines. housing all of the technology inside an easily transportable unit (see inset right). before being shipped back for resale. so the availability from the turbines is very good indeed -averaging around 45-50%. which Dr Daniel Aklil H Alluin commutes to work in! Hydrogen vehicle Gazey told me that this is the first road-legal typeapproved hydrogen vehicle in the UK. which operates at system pressure. designed to utilise the supply from the wind turbines more efficiently. and an unrivalled pool of expertise in hydrogen and fuel cells.

Gingerly pushing on the accelerator. In the PURE car the hydrogen acts in symphony with the lead-acid batteries originally fitted to the G-Wiz car on which the PURE car was based. anyone expecting more than a modicum of knee-room. loud and soft. The quiet hum of the cooling fans was a far cry from the roar of an internal combustion engine. Hagdale Industrial Estate. PURE has also created the sustainable infrastructure to allow refuelling of the hydrogen vehicle.2kW fuel cell 4. vehicles like the PURE are likely to become a common sight on our streets in years to come.the PURE hydrogen car is refueled with 100% green hydrogen . Gazey notes that the PURE system works at a relatively low pressure. W 1. Road test I took the hydrogen car out for a spin and driving it was a surreal experience.6kW DC electric motor. All of this is surprising from one of Britain s remotest islands. Gazey reminded me that as the vehicle is gearless.Spring08 . E and F denote reverse. To the right hand side of the steering wheel is a chunky rotary knob. the car surges forward. In all frankness.6kW. Shetland.6m. ZE2 9DS The PURE hydrogen car being refuelled and (inset) one of the hydrogen fueling stations that are dotted across the island. H 1. with no clutch to worry about. and the vehicle begins to get up to speed. It is clear from Gazey s description of the vehicle and refueling station that he has a passion for flair and innovation. However. Initial acceleration is quite brisk.. R. Unst. N. As my large frame climbed into the driver s seat. 48V DC motor 50 lb ft @ 2000rpm Proton exchange membrane Metal hydride tanks Hydraulic regenerative 1 Turning circle: 3. I was urged to plump for fast.3m. which helps to circumvent some of the safety legislation that the mainstream car manufacturers are having to grapple with. surprisingly nippy! I was left with the feeling that it is amazing how such a bold technical achievement has been accomplished by such a small organisation and doubtless with pressure from declining oil reserves. Ever the daredevil. very much in keeping with the current zeitgeist for green technology sweeping the motoring industry.. this was unexpected. This is because the vehicle is refueled at low-pressure. was likely to be severely distressed. he is quick to add that it does take six hours to fill the car s metal hydride cylinder (a kind of can filled with a hydrogen sponge which soaks up the gas).5 metres So why Unst as the location for this novel enterprise? In addition to creating a novel and innovative vehicle. neutral. and more akin to an engine fan fitted to many cars. On the straight the pedal touches the floor. 63 GreenBuildingmagazine . His vehicle employs PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell technology to convert hydrogen into electrical energy. Turning out of the car park the vehicle s limitations become apparent as we disconcertingly lurch to the left but Gazey reassured me that with several hundred kilo of lead acid batteries and steel frame beneath us we re not going to roll over.the crowd . TECH SPEC OF THE PURE HYDROGEN PROPELLED CAR Vehicle body: Dimensions: Rolling weight: Top speed: Tyres: Drive: Power: Motor: Torque Fuel cell: Hydrogen storage: Braking: Insurance group: 2 Door L 2. and flicked the red-switch retro-fitted by PURE.6m 665kg 45mph/72kph 13 low rolling resistance Rear-wheel drive 8x6v lead acid batteries and a Ballard Nexa® 1. It became apparent that once inside. which can power the car s 4. Many hydrogen vehicles are fuelled from hydrogen produced from fossil fuel. providing a hydrogen hybrid solution and giving the car extra range and acceleration. there are only two pedals. the Ballard fuel cell whirred into action behind me. I am told that one of the challenges with hydrogen vehicle technology is designing a method for refueling. economy and fast. Gavin Harper For further info: PURE Energy Centre.

including two 25kW Carter wind turbines a total installed capacity of 13kWp of photovoltaics and two micro-hydroelectric turbines with a combined output in the region of 3kW. Regardless of the hurdles Gammon remains confident that the technology underpinning the fuel cell concept is fundamentally reliable and sound. micro hydro turbines and wind turbines. For example. providing a measure of long-term energy storage. it was decided to move the fuel cell closer to the control electronics. a Plug Power 5kW fuel cell takes the hydrogen and turns it into electricity to augment any power being produced from the renewables. The team did some experimentation with advanced batteries. However. the jury is still out on the full capabilities of the fuel cell . His West Beacon Farm has become one of the great examples of how renewable energies can integrate with the rural home.Spring08 . There have also been a few teething troubles and modifications needed to the software controlling the fuel cell. Batteries are used to provide shortterm energy storage. A significant amount of energy is produced by the installation at Beacon Farm. Interestingly. According to Tony Marmont.The hydrogen and renewables integration project at his farm. and incremental improvements have been made during the life of the installation. produces hydrogen at 25 bar which is then compressed and stored in cylinders. Speaking to Dr Gammon of Bryte Energy who has been responsible for much of the design and implementation of the project. however. Now the spare capacity is diverted into hydrogen production. the system has now transitioned from a high voltage (600V) bus concept shown in the system diagram (right). system architect of the Hydrogen and Renewables Integration Project (HARI) at ‘West Beacon Farm’ in Leicestershire. Tony Marmont is a name that has become synonymous with renewable energy in the UK. 30MWh. as the line was experiencing some attenuation. there is still work to be done. Furthermore. was used on site each year and the surplus 20MWh was exported to the grid. the energy generated on-site since the mideighties averages 50MWh per annum. a waterconservation strategy has been adopted. with plans to further insulate the electrolyser. Before the HARI project. on average. generated as a waste product from the fuel cell. The most recent refinement to the system takes the renewable electricity produced by the solar arrays. Most of the problems have been more as a result of system integration . whenever energy is converted from one form to another. to a lower voltage of 120V for the main distribution system. however. and converts any overcapacity that the batteries cannot store into hydrogen.Hydrogen integration at West Beacon Farm Gavin Harper talks to Rupert Gammon. the stored hydrogen can also be used to meet some of the on-site transport energy needs. which complements the shorter term storage capability of the lead acid batteries. after experiencing problems with controlling the fuel cell. More on that later. whereby water. in turn. which. For instance. circulating water from a coil at the bottom of an artificial lake and a 15kW electrical. The house s central heating needs are met by a 10kW thermal heat pump. There has also been extensive research and work needed to enable the integration of the 5kW Plug Power fuel cell with the other renewable power system. as well as an array of evacuated tube solar thermal collectors for hot water. some is invariably lost as heat. is recirculated back to the electrolyser for production of fresh hydrogen ‒ ensuring it is not wasted. The existing system consisted of a mixed basket of renewables. So now when additional power is required on dull and windless days. It does this by electrolysis ‒ feeding spare power into a 36kW electrolyser. that whilst the basic technology is sound. these have now been disconnected in favour of traditional lead-acid batteries which have proven to be a more robust solution and a simpler technology. the home of Tony Marmont. takes Tony Marmont s existing renewable energy infrastructure and examines how renewables could potentially integrate with hydrogen infrastructure in the future. Tony Marmont estimates that the round-trip efficiency of converting 64 GreenBuildingmagazine . there are still un-resolved issues with the architecture of the system s power electronics and it is constantly evolving. Much has been learnt about the practical implementation of hydrogen technologies. Pipework has been insulated over time to reduce thermal losses. Dr Gammon is clear. 38kW thermal Totem combined heat and power unit that currently runs on liquified petroleum gas.

R. they are very well understood.2kW Turgo turbine with 25m head Various electricity to hydrogen.000 25. CO. 3. 13. System Electrolyser Fuel cell (1) Fuel cell (2) H2 Compressor H2 Storage Manufacturer/Supplier/ Model Designation Hydrogenics (formerly Vandenborre) Intelligent Energy.Spring08 . Gammon replies dual fuel never gets stranded anywhere . 3. Asking about the lessons learned from the project. 2.000 50. However. but this issue is now resolved. This resulted in West Beacon Farm temporarily being a net importer of green energy.75 kW. 34kW.PDF Gammon. mixed polycrystalline and monocrystalline 850W cross-flow turbine with 2m head 2. However. practical hydrogen-based solutions are not too far away.BEACONENERGY. supplied by SiGen Ltd Hydro-Pac supplied by BOC Supplied by BOC Rated Performance 8 Nm 3/hour of H2. but the big picture is that it has helped us to understand how the concept of a hydrogen economy really will work ‒ and it strongly underlines the fact that it is not about electricity storage.with 70% being lost as a result of inefficiency. 24 VDC 5 kW (el). Whilst internal combustion engines are not the most efficient technology.UK / PDFS / WESTBEACONFARM West Beacon Farm hydrogen project: above: the house behind the hydrogen shed below left: the electrolyser that makes hydrogen from excess renewable energy below right: the Plug Power fuel cell bottom: the hydrogen storage tanks.000 49. there are other ways of doing that ‒ but its about hydrogen as a grid balancing mechanism which also produces transport fuel. these plans have been shelved in favour of developing a dual-fuel (petrol and hydrogen) car. J. Gammon replies: The project has certainly shown us lots of small problems. M. there were plans to develop a fuel cell range extender for an electric car. then back to electricity. 48 V DC 11 Nm3/hour. The plans are to employ compressed hydrogen stored in a pressurised tank ‒ the simplest option for storing the hydrogen.7MPa (137 bar) max pressure.000 59. BMW has decided to stick with internal combustion engine technology for its Hydrogen 7 . with no need to buy from or sell to the grid. Barton. the legacy option of petrol. Loughborough University’ WWW. Indeed..000 Sub total cost of fuel cell system Wind turbines Solar PV Hydro-electric Integration system Carter wind turbines BP Two systems installed by Dulas Control techniques and bespoke converters from Loughborough University 2 x 25kW two bladed stall-regulated.Table 1. CHP Unit Plug Power GenCore. it s about transferring surplus electricity to use as a transport fuel. 2856 Nm3 total H2 capacity 3 Cost (in £) (indicative) 143..000 369. and this feature has made them appealing for the first wave of hydrogen vehicle development. Roy.475 m . this highlights how the infrastructure needed to support hydrogen transportation will need to be developed significantly for the technology to become a practical option for the average motorist. 8:1 compression ratio 48 cylinders.5 MPa (25 bar) rated 2 kW (el). & Little.000 20. There are other methods under exploration Plans are afoot at the farm to modify a Toyota Prius to work as a dual fuel vehicle. It s not about storage. whilst around 6MWh was lost as leaks during the bedding in process. each 0. is around 30% . pitch over-speed 13kW total.6MWh equivalent of hydrogen has been generated and stored onsite. A. Lessons learnt From storage to transport Originally. the plan is for the farm to be able to operate independently. Asking why it was decided to keep The work conducted to date is showing that whilst there is a need for continued investment and development. Gavin Harper Further Information: WWW..BRYTE-ENERGY.000 67. _ 050208. If anything. 2kW (th). CREST. in the future. (2006) ‘Hydrogen and Renewables Integration’. COM All images and table courtesy of Dr Rupert Gammon 65 GreenBuildingmagazine . Summary of all renewable energy systems at West Beacon Farm.000 122. Since the system has been operational.000 All systems total cost 595.000 60.

Island generation is a key attribute of fuel cell CHP since they can switch from grid connect to island operation What are . Public wire networks are a network of wires linking different buildings and organisations. Electricity. losses or government levies. and is now Chief Executive Officer of the London Climate Change Agency. This is why big banks and credit card companies use fuel cells in the USA.Working towards a hydrogen future an interview with Allan Jones Allan Jones. paying only a distribution charge to the local public wires distribution network operator. which not only supplied these individual sites but also traded their electricity together (imports/exports) between sites over the local public wires distribution network without the need to sell or buy electricity from the national grid.? Private wire networks are a network of supply wires within an organisation’s buildings for distributing electricity around the organisation. There were financial benefits because of the economics of operating private wire networks under the exempt licensing regime. The decentralised energy system at Woking Park met all of the electricity. MBE was the mastermind behind the UK’s first fuel cell CHP venture in Woking.. 66 GreenBuildingmagazine . For example. Although Woking has other island generation systems. The Woking Park decentralised energy system comprises other larger CHP trigeneration systems and solar photovoltaics. and about their future role in our built environment. I implemented 80 (yes eighty) decentralised energy systems on private wire networks at Woking. The Woking Park system actually operated in island generation mode due to power cuts in the national grid several times whilst I was at Woking. this is limited to only 1MW for domestic customers on each private wire I began by asking Jones why he had embarked on the idea of combining fuel cell technology with private wire (local supply) networks. in 0. ie. computers crash without power supply at 8 milli seconds so would not even see a power cut with a fuel cell driven island generation system. no grid transmission charges. I then asked whether he was disappointed with the current regulatory framework for UK energy supplies. heat and cooling was required for the Woking Park site and supplying electricity on private wire networks at retail (though competitive) prices dramatically increased the economics of the project by 400% over supplying electricity into the national grid at very low wholesale prices. and what he would change? The current regulatory framework does not really inhibit supply on private wire networks to non domestic customers since up to 100MW can be generated. Gavin Harper talked to Jones about fuel cells and private wire networks. This enabled the three swimming pools and the leisure centre to continue in operation whilst everywhere else around them could be in darkness. Was it more for technical or regulatory reasons. and what advantages did such networks have over the national grid? The fuel cell CHP was embedded into an existing private wire network at Woking Park and the fuel cell CHP was used as a black start generator (as well as a CHP) to enable the decentralised energy system at Woking Park to operate in island generation mode in the event of a failure of the national grid.Spring08 ..5 milli seconds. This includes the national grid. heat and cooling requirements of the site as well as being a net exporter of surplus power which was supplied to other Woking sites at competitive retail prices under the exempt licensing regime in the UK. The heat from the fuel cell CHP was used for supplying into both the district heating and cooling (via heat fired absorption chillers) systems.. However. this is very fast.. distributed and supplied on each private wire network..

The Action Plan sets a target of taking 25% of London s energy supply of reliance on centralised energy by 2025 and by more than 50% by 2050. via anaerobic digestion) and syngas (town gas) and synthetic liquid fuels (derived from non organic or mixed waste via gasification or pyrolysis) are all hydrogen rich fuels. it would also provide an accelerated pathway to renewable hydrogen. This is not normally shown in this way since emissions are normally smeared across end use (ie. renewable gases and liquid fuels from waste and biomass project currently under way with London Remade and the London ESCO ‒ a joint venture Energy Services Company with EDF Energy established to design.Spring08 . how do you believe our energy markets might adapt to a future hydrogen economy and how might the current regulatory framework change or adapt? The current regulatory framework only really applies to electricity and gas. London uses the same amount of energy in a year as Greece or Portugal. and will hydrogen help us in meeting this aim? The answer to this is in the Mayor s Climate Change Action Plan. it is important to identify the real cause of climate change since this is how emissions can be reduced at large scale and quickly.5MW in aggregate. renewable gases and liquid fuels derived from waste and biomass (largest renewable energy resource in London) can provide today s renewable energy for buildings (via CHP) and transport. This is unfair on domestic customers. a post which he has now held since 2004. The LCCA is the Mayor s direct-delivery agency which has already set in motion projects. with urban centres such as London possessing an extremely high energy density. renewable gases and liquid fuels (both rich in hydrogen) or hydrogen. whereas in Woking they never came up against this barrier. However. It does not concern itself with heat. including carbon accounting. etc). So what give you the most hope for the future? London taking the lead in tackling climate change on a world city-wide stage and the London Climate Change Agency s role in that. taken together with energy efficiency and the greening up of the remnants of centralised energy The now famous Woking combined heat and power plant with (inset) the fuel cell building set alongside the public swimmimg baths. renewable energy projects at the London Transport Museum. heat to cool. fuel cell CHP trigeneration study at Palestra (which is currently being procured). commercial. industrial. Better Buildings Partnership ‒ a project to enable and accelerate the uptake of energy efficiency retrofits in London s commercial offices under the Green Organisations Programme. study on the implications for CO2 emissions of housing growth in London and prototyping a deep service model for domestic energy efficiency and micro generation. this would have the effect of not only stimulating low and zero carbon technologies and infrastructure. So based on that. if the regulatory barriers to decentralised energy are removed. and tomorrow s renewable hydrogen for buildings (via CHP) and transport. since biogas (derived from organic waste and biomass. But to what extent do you believe that fuel cells can act as an enabling technology for decentralised energy? Fuel cells will not act as an enabling technology for decentralised energy but decentralised energy will act as enabling technology for fuel cells since the value of electricity would be increased which would significantly improve the economics of fuel cells and bring forward the utilisation of fuel cells . 67 GreenBuildingmagazine . However. build and operate decentralised energy systems. since cheaper electricity can be supplied to domestic customers on private wire networks than from the grid. This.. which in London is very large scale. Palestra and City Hall. and inhibits the ability to provide decentralised energy to mixed development. housing. 75% of London s CO2 emissions is due to centralised energy supply. Which leads us on to the gargantuan challenge Jones currently faces as Chief Executive Officer of the London Climate Change Agency (LCCA).network with the export over public wires limited to 2. For example. so how does Jones see us meeting this demand sustainably. finance. which is now being rolled out under the Green Homes Programme. In its Energy White Paper the government promised to look into the regulatory barriers to decentralised energy. This is no small task.

with large scale renewables will achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions. causing emissions of 35 million tonnes pa. quite apart from the very significant cost. The fuel cells being used in Woking and other projects. ZEROCARBONBRITAIN . During the dash for gas Britain transitioned a significant chunk of its centralised energy generating capacity to natural gas. Jones clearly has a record of practical implementation of fuel cell projects and could well be the most qualified person in the UK to crystal ball gaze and see the road ahead for hydrogen in the UK. if not impractical) since hydrogen is only needed at the point of supply at the stationary or transport fuel cell where it can be reformed in situ at the fuel cell CHP or filling station for fuel cell transportation. nuclear power stations are only 38% efficient across the year as a whole. and if so how does he foresee us producing hydrogen on the scale required? The UK s natural gas supplies may be dwindling but the UK has taken action on this by connecting Norwegian gas to the UK by pipeline and establishing a liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure in the UK. What Allan Jones has achieved in Woking is nothing short of revolutionary and I am delighted that he has agreed to take up the challenge of replicating what he achieved in one borough on London s worldcity sized stage. Jones says. Other sources of hydrogen also have potential. syngas or synthetic liquid fuels (longer term). The Mayor s ambition is not just for London to become the green capital of Europe but for London to lead the fight against climate change on a world stage. The UK does not actually use any Siberian gas and probably has no need to. with climate change. Nuclear power stations are very inefficient. long term storage and political issues. I asked Jones how he planned to make London the green capital of Europe and he commented that the plan. not by 2050. 75% of the world s CO2 emissions comes from cities. Hydrogen is 75% of the known universe so is in pretty much everything. In closing our interview. Of these. Trinidad and elsewhere. disposal. reform hydrogen from natural gas. This could be technically feasible by 2025 and politically feasible by the same date. I asked him to put his neck on the line and give us some sort of timescale. With the UK s natural gas supplies rapidly dwindling. Therefore. Jones was quick to allay fears about natural gas supply. whilst other voices. No. and whether nuclear power has a role to play in his vision of the hydrogen economy. Ken Livingstone is quoted as saying. The hydrogen economy has voices on both sides of the fence. such as Centre for Alternative Technology s ZeroCarbonBritain 1 report. energy supply is by far the largest emitter.Spring08 . and the partnership with the Clinton Foundation has been established. That is why the C40. Hydrogen will be transported by natural gas (initially). Gavin Harper 1. if the regulatory barriers to decentralised energy were removed. natural gas will be around for some time yet and probably longer if it is used for CHP and not CCGT (combined cycle gas turbine) power stations. quite apart from consuming even more water. There is no need to transport pure hydrogen (which would be expensive. In other words hydrogen goes with low and zero carbon decentralised energy and not with unsustainable centralised energy. biogas. This will be supplemented by electrolysing renewable electricity locally but I do not see this as a major source. steam for industry and losses in the grid. According to the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES) published by BERR (formerly the DTI). dissent from this view and see the UK becoming a nuclear free nation. environmental. Some people hold concerns that. such as growing hydrogen from microbes or a direct photosynthesis process. but by 2025. Two thirds of its energy is wasted into the atmosphere through cooling towers and losses in the grid and a further 9% of electricity is lost in the grid transmission and distribution systems (Ofgem figures). Therefore. WWW. including us. This wasted thermal and electrical energy has to be replaced by fossil fuel energy to heat buildings. COM 68 GreenBuildingmagazine . hydrogen will be transported as part of a fuel by pipeline (gases) or by tanker (liquids). hydrogen can continue to be reformed from natural gas for sometime yet but London is working on a renewable hydrogen energy infrastructure to replace the natural gas infrastructure. this will make Britain dependent on other countries for its energy. as set out in the Mayor s Climate Change Action Plan. bringing together 40 of the world s largest cities. whilst others believe that hydrogen is the key to enabling decentralised technologies. This is set to increase by 15% by 2025 if no action is taken. in the future. LNG has a very high energy density so very large amounts of gas can be transported in a very small space. The incumbent government appears to have a resurgent interest in nuclear power after several decades and seems poised to guide us into a nuclear future. But how does Jones feel about the view put forward by some promoters of a nuclear/hydrogen future. Nuclear power stations and so called carbon capture and sequestered coal fired power stations are bear traps. enabling LNG to be transported by tanker from such places as Indonesia. The UK has established LNG terminals in the UK (I used LNG in Woking). as well as the expense and impracticability of transporting hydrogen long distances from power stations. Some see a hydrogen future enabled by nuclear installations electrolysing water to produce hydrogen. 75% of London s emissions. how does Jones see us moving beyond reformation of natural gas for hydrogen. UK power stations use 50% of the UK s water resources and in a declining water resource world. this is just not sustainable and not conducive to what we are looking for in a renewable hydrogen energy economy. Cities are most at risk from climate change and cities are best placed to tackle climate change. Cities can do this and do not need permission from federal governments to do so. concerns tackling emissions in 7 sectors: l existing homes l existing commercial and municipal activity l new build and development l energy supply l ground transport l aviation l Mayoral Group showing by doing . Generating hydrogen from power stations using electrolysis is technically feasible but not sustainable for the reasons as above. Therefore. Hydrogen will play a role in this.

who also works as a consultant in the fuel cell industry. suitable for small applications like domestic micro-CHP. By the time it reached the conference.under the banner of Arcola Energy. The first show to be powered by the fuel cell.HTML WWW. the only output from the fuel cells will be pure water.HJALTLAND. ORG. Arcola is leading the theatre industry in developing this premiere sustainable production and I know that many other theatres are now keen to follow. Whilst at the moment. Mayor of London London s Arcola Theatre. illuminated by a low energy LED lighting system. and the project is made possible by grantfunding. COM HYDROGEN HOMES FOR SCOTLAND Hjaltland Housing Association. The lighting for the entire café/bar now consumes under 500 watts. It will also provide communities around the world with access to clean hydrogen fuel to power clean vehicles. The installation is being supported by the Scottish Executive Renewable Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Scheme. it could provide a clean energy-lifeline for isolated communities.Spring08 . ARCOLAENERGY. up to 60% less than comparable lighting installations. Every individual. It is spearheaded by Dr Ben Todd. every shop. with combined electrical and thermal efficiency of 90%. the hydrogen will be used to meet the homes heat and power needs.UK / HTML / INDEX . provides both a powerful educational tool and a source of motivation for reducing energy use. Initially. The environmental impact of all aspects of the production has been minimised. the physical dimensions can be shrunk. Arcola Theatre is demonstrating that bold changes can be made and that making them offers exciting opportunities for new creative partnerships. supplied and sponsored by the London Hydrogen Partnership. WWW. The Living Unknown Soldier. one of the UK s leading independent venues. which can then be converted to heat and energy by a solid-oxide fuel cell. and the applications side will be managed by PURE Energy Centre. as the technology develops its economic-competitiveness. company travel and show lighting. By eliminating the seals from the fuel cells. 40% of the worldwide population live with no access to electricity and heat. Links: WWW. making a higher energy-density cell. accompanied by displays describing the benefits and challenges posed by this technology. has installed a hydrogen fuel cell to power its café/bar and selected main house shows. as with renewably-sourced hydrogen. In addition Arcola s bar/café has been upgraded to an eco-bar. but the project hopes to eventually develop to the point of producing hydrogen for fuelling a pair of hydrogen cars for the houses. These houses have the potential to be a blueprint for future zerocarbon housing. unplugged from the grid. and storing power generated onsite in the form of hydrogen. COM 69 GreenBuildingmagazine . is to build the UK s first hydrogen homes . He said: The arts have a crucial role to play in elucidating and motivating the changes in lifestyle necessary to deliver an equitable future for all humankind. Gavin Harper caught up with Fuel Cells Scotland at the H207 conference earlier this year in Aberdeen.UK WWW. The fuel cell solution will also offer some advantages over the Stirling engine based micro-CHP units currently being installed in some homes. every business. producing nothing but electricity and clean water. and every theatre has a part to play in tackling climate change and this lead by Arcola Theatre is just what we need said Ken Livingstone. a saving of 60%. The 5kW fuel cell system takes pride of place in the foyer of the theatre. Once the fuel cell has been installed. It was a first in that the cell is a unique seal-less design . and the challenge of relying entirely upon it. The prominent location of the fuel cell. FUELCELLS-SCOTLAND. including set construction. serving organic and fair-trade refreshments. along with the PURE Energy Centre and Fuel Cells Scotland.PURE. the demonstration model had been operating for 1500 hours. The installation of the fuel cell and our present emphasis on greening our operations are examples of what can be done now.THEATRE IS HYDROGEN FUEL CELL POWERED The Arcola Theatre is a good example of why London s cultural sector is so dynamic and successful. Through Arcola Energy. this is unlikely to be possible due to restrictions on what we can do as a leaseholder and the protracted business of securing the freehold for our premises ‒ a problem faced by many organisations. Dr Daniel Aklil D Halluin of the PURE Energy Centre said. the second phase of the scheme involves developing a renewable-sourced hydrogen production and storage infrastructure around the houses. This is made possible through extensive use of LED lighting and the careful use of high efficiency tungsten lamps. marketing. with the added benefit of providing near infinite flexibility in light level and colour for perfect daytime operation as well as for café/bar performances. the theatre s executive director. The fuel cells have been developed by Dr TG Lindsay of Fuel Cells Scotland whose work on solid oxide fuel cell stacks is the culmination of 12 years of research and development. Todd also noted that When we launched Arcola Energy in July 2007 we planned to install renewable technologies within 12 months. The lighting for the show has a peak power consumption of 4. may well be London s premier ecologically sustainable show.5kW. The Living Unknown Soldier is unique in that it is the world s first production to be powered by a fuel cell. produced by Strawberry Vale. The houses are going to be powered by micro CHP fuel cell systems developed by Fuel Cells Scotland. The CHP scheme will provide these populations with such access. whilst infrastructure projects are under development . The fuel cell operates almost silently. SHETLAND. where they were exhibiting their novel solid-oxide fuel cell. in that they have no moving parts. This project is part of Arcola Theatre s extensive sustainability-related activities . the technology is expensive. The production s environmental footprint will be evaluated by Global Action Plan and the lessons learned published for the benefit of other practitioners. CO.

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