Key research and industry players recognise that the name
of the game in today's
energy world is Renewable. In a bid to join the bandwagon is a consortium that
has clinched a €5.8 million grant from the European Union to develop
large Solid Oxide Fuel Cell-based (SOFC) power plants. The €11 million
“Towards a Large SOFC Power Plant” project, which is scheduled to run
over a three-year period, kicked off on 1 January 2007 and is moving in a positive
The Finland-based VTT (Technical Research Centre) is the coordinator of the research
consortium, which seeks to determine what materials, components and systems are
needed to ensure efficient, reliable and cost-effective leading SOFC power plants.
The consortium will also focus on systems design and balance of plant component
engineering, including heat exchangers. Part of the project's activity will be
to assess processes and materials that are essential for low cost stock production.
|Fuel cell action
The element that will effectively make the concept a commercial success is stack production. For the research consortium, heightening this possibility means concentrating on building sizeable quantities of stack for non-pressurised CHP units and pressurised units generating power. Other aspects of the project include examining the grid connection and fuels, as well as exploring the impact on the environment.
The importance of SOFC-based power plants has intensified immensely in recent
years. Experts believe that the players involved in this type of power generation
will have the ability to get the units up and running by 2010. Current data show
that the power stations will have a generation capacity of 20-50 kW to 250 kW
and up to 1 MW, and will use pressurised and non-pressurised technologies.
The experts have also noted that the units will be suitable both for CHP and
power-only in distributed generation applications. Based on the latest information,
the units should be commercialised by 2015. In order to guarantee the units' success,
four components are needed: 1) operational benefits of high fuel efficiencies;
2) multi-fuel capabilities; 3) low emissions; and 4) use of bio-fuels including
gas from natural gas and biomass gasification.
The consortium is comprised of the following European groups: VTT of Finland,
BOSAL RESEARCH nv, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Chimica e di Processo “G.B.
Bonino” - Università di Genova, Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH,
Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems Ltd, Topsoe Fuel Cell A/S, Verteco Oy and Inmatec
Technologies GmbH, Wärtsilä Corporation.
For its part, VTT has been working diligently over the years to conduct technical research and development work. Not only does it seek to boost competitiveness in the industry, but it also aims to bolster the welfare of society through the work it does. Through VTT, global R&D networking keeps getting stronger and stronger. The Centre collaborates with companies and organisations, and the academic world, both locally and abroad.