Fuel Cell Applications
State of the States:
Fuel Cells in America 2011 and 2012
Download the reports HERE.
The Tulare Waste Water Treatment Plant case study is particularly relevant to the Kings Bay Crystal River example below.
Stationary power, transportation power, and portable power are the three principal markets addressed by the fuel cell
industry. Stationary power includes any application having the fuel cells at a fixed location. Transportation power
embraces all motive applications on land, sea or air. Portable power applies to the power sources of portable equipment.
Fuel cells supplied to these markets range from multi-megawatt systems to micro cells of a few milliwatts.
Fuel cells produce electricity electrochemically without combustion accounting for billions of kilo watt hours of
electrical energy - kWh(e) - worldwide. They are characterized as quiet, highly efficient, lacking polluting emissions,
consistently reliable and predictably precise. Some attributes of fuel cells are listed below:
Energy-efficient. High temperature fuel cells deliver upward of 47 percent energy
efficiency well above that of US central station efficiencies of 33 percent. Combined with a turbine fuel cell
efficiencies approach 70 percent, and in combined heat and power applications (CHP) higher efficiencies can be achieved.
Emission-less. Fuel cells have near zero, ultra low air emissions unmatched by any other
fuel consuming technology.
Noise-less. A fuel cell stack has no moving parts nor combustion and consequently are
silent in operation.
Dependable. Fuel cells provide high quality power to critical operations as part of
distributed generation solutions immune to general grid based blackouts, brownouts and voltage sags.
Fuel Diverse. Fuel cells can employ various fuel sources such as natural gas, anaerobic
digester gas (ADG), propane, ethanol, methane, methanol, biogas, coal gas or hydrogen.
Grid Independent. Because fuel cells operate independently of any high power electrical
grid they are readily expandable and immune from attacks or natural disasters affecting operation of the grid systems.
These attributes suit fuel cells to a wide spectrum of applications. Fuel cell power systems are quiet,
environmentally clean, highly efficient converters of fuel into electricity with the by product of thermal energy for
space heating, hot water or absorption cooling. Stationary fuel cell systems replace or supplement traditionally
supplied grid power and enable distributed power generation as briefly discussed below:
Commercial Power Generation relates to telecommunication sites, remote communication
facilities, office buildings, industrial plants, laboratories, hospitals, computer and data centers, hotels, schools and
many small businesses.
Industrial Power Generation employs processed industrial by-products as fuel sources in
fuel cells to generate electricity and thermal energy creating economies in power consumption and minimizing the
frequently high costs of transporting and disposing of waste material.
Residential Power Supply fuel cells can deliver all or most of the heating/cooling
electric power needs of a home or multifamily residence. Simple smart meters can monitor and adjust consumption to
budgetary targets according to variations in ambient temperatures, switching excesses to utility companies for energy
Military Capability is enhanced with fuel cell power. Applications of quieter, lighter,
faster refueling, computing, weapon and surveillance systems together with base support and medical facilities create
innumerable applications for improving fuel efficiencies and saving lives of our forces both in training and in action.
The economic benefit of reducing the 70 percent of the logistics load devoted to fuel alone must be a significant number
as well as improving speed of responsive deployment.
Portable Equipment Power includes the sub category of micro systems enabling portability
ranging from milliwatts to several kilowatts of environmentally benign power capacity. Four categories include
replacement power, battery support, battery replacement, and creative applications involving expendable or reusable
cartridge refueling devices. Target systems include power for the rapidly expanding markets for cell phones, wi-fi
devices, personal data and tablet computers, and entertainment systems which may well account for a third of residential
- Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCV) to ameliorate the national dependence upon supplies of fossil
fuels from overseas and to lessen environmental impacts of global climate change are a government research and security
priority. Many motor vehicle manufacturers are responding vigorously to this need. Its requirement for a hydrogen
refueling infrastructure to become the target province of either "Big Oil" or the utility companies as they
face the onset of distributed generation and the need to take up their supply-side generating slack.
An Example from Kings Bay, Crystal River
No lasting improvement to water quality in Kings Bay can be made without first reducing its principal cause of the
degradation, which is the yearly ingress of nitrates through spring discharges.
Of the various significant sources of nitrogen, that most easily calculated is that from the thousands of septic
systems in Citrus County throughout the Kings Bay springshed which account for some 800 tons of nitrate discharged from
the springs annually.
Expensive though it might well be, when the rewards are seen in terms of advances in the local economic well being
coupled with the introduction of a new industrial opportunity into Citrus County – nothing can compare.
Conversion of the septic systems to central sewer demands a new strategically located sewage waste water treatment
facility (WWTF) near to the Maylen Road natural gas (NG) distribution plant in Lecanto. (On higher ground out of the
flood plain and able to supply a complementary NG fuel supply to that principal fuel powering the waste water treatment
facility derived from methane generated by the anaerobic digestion (AD) phase of the treatment process.) The fuel cells produce heat as a by-product which is used to increase the efficiency of the AD process. A seamless
automatic shift to NG is made should the pressure of the methane supply reduce for any reason.
As local labor becomes trained and experienced in assembly, operation and maintenance of the fuel cell modules at the
heart of the WWTF, a stage is set for expansion into other NG fail safe fuel cell distributed power generation
applications. Such as, hospitals, schools, hotels, emergency services, 24/7 call/data centers and the grand prize of
equipping homes with NG fuel cell units providing total power needs for space and water heating and chilling, lighting,
cooking, etcetera. These products are on the market today.
While reducing peak demands for grid power; suffer no more grid power outages costing $100 billion every year, no
more threat of cyber attack against critical infrastructure, no more grid voltage sags, surges or frequency variations,
no more danger from storm-downed live power lines.
The GAO describes the threats to the electric power grid as one
of the nation's high-risk vulnerabilities.