FuelCell Energy power plants convert fuels such as clean natural gas or renewable biogas into electricity, heat, and water through an electrochemical reaction within the fuel cells. This combustion-free power generation process creates electricity that is virtually absent of pollutants, supporting customer sustainability goals and promoting public health for neighboring communities.
In comparison, internal combustion-based power generation creates harmful emissions such as nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SOx) and particulate matter (PM). NOx and SOx emissions are regulated in many regions to minimize their adverse health effects and the creation of smog. PM emissions are a public health concern as the particulates can lodge deep in human lung tissue, accumulating over time. While downstream exhaust treatment of internal combustion emissions can remove some NOx, SOx and PM, overall levels remain significantly higher than those achieved from ultra-clean fuel cell power generation. Downstream exhaust treatment for internal combustion power generation also adds cost and complication.
The high efficiency of our SureSource power plants contributes to favorable economics through lower fuel consumption as fuel cell power plants generate more power from a given unit of fuel than similar size internal combustion-based power generation.
Our power plants are 47 to 60 percent electrically efficient and can achieve total thermal efficiency up to 90 percent in a combined heat and power (CHP) configuration, depending on the application. For natural gas pipeline applications, we offer an enhanced efficiency configuration with a turbine recovery generator that can achieve electrical efficiencies of 60 percent and higher, depending on the flow of pipeline gas.
Our SureSource power plants are ideal distributed generation sources and enable efficient power delivery. Providing power at the point of use avoids the need for transmission & distribution infrastructure and corresponding transmission losses. Typically, the transmission of power over long distances results in line power losses of 7 – 9 percent of the centrally-generated power. As a form of distributed generation, our fuel cell solutions avoid these costly transmission losses.
Fuel cells emit water vapor rather than pollutants as they use chemistry to generate power from a fuel instead of burning. This virtual absence of pollutants combined with vibration-free and relatively quiet operation enables our fuel cell power plants to be sited near residences, within cities, and on university, hospital and commercial campuses.
Land can be a scarce resource in certain regions and clean, quiet power generation with a modest footprint that generates power where the power is used is advantageous. One acre of land supports 10 megawatts of fuel cell plants, adequate to power approximately 10,000 average size USA homes. By comparison, similar annual power output from intermittent solar in the northeast USA would require approximately 395 acres of land, which starkly illustrates the advantage of being able to locate clean and quiet fuel cells on small parcels of land within cities.
For example, a 14.9 megawatt fuel cell park in the northeast USA occupies only 1.5 acres of land near a residential neighborhood and the world’s largest fuel cell park, a 59 megawatt facility in South Korea, occupies only about 5.1 acres of land.
Avoiding transmission is another advantage of fuel cells. Transmission permitting can be difficult and costly, particularly in populated areas that prefer to avoid the siting of high tension power lines in their neighborhoods.
Our SureSource power plants efficiently convert hydrogen and oxygen into ultra-clean electricity and usable high quality heat suitable for making steam. The hydrogen is obtained from a fuel source such as clean natural gas or renewable biogas, and is reformed within the fuel cell itself. This unique internal reforming technology allows SureSource power plants to utilize readily available fuels.
Natural gas is the primary fuel source utilized by our growing installed fleet of SureSource power plants. An established natural gas distribution pipeline in our geographic markets combined with the high efficiency of the fuel cell power generation process that is valued by our customers support the use of this clean fuel source for generating electricity and heat.
SureSource power plants operating on renewable biogas are an especially compelling value proposition as they convert a waste product into ultra-clean electricity and heat, solving economic and sustainability challenges for our customers. Biogas is generated by the decay of organic material (i.e., biomass). This decaying organic matter releases methane, or biogas. A harmful greenhouse gas, the biogas cannot be released directly into the atmosphere, while flaring creates pollutants and wastes this potential fuel source. Capturing and using biogas as a fuel, however, solves these vexing challenges and provides a carbon-neutral renewable fuel source.
SureSource plants can also use directed biogas for fuel, which is biogas cleaned to pipeline standards and injected into a natural gas pipeline for use at a distant location.
A variety of other fuels, both gaseous and liquid, have been proven effective with SureSource systems, including propane, coal syngas and even bunker fuel used for ship fueling.
Our SureSource Storage solution is a developing, market-driven energy storage system that utilizes solid oxide electrolysis cells (SOEC) to affordably and efficiently convert excess power into hydrogen, an energy carrier, for long duration storage applications.
The 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.
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. 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.
Meeting the needs for utility-scale applications as well as on-site opportunities, our SureSource Storage solution offers:
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 continues to expand as utilities adjust to manage increased levels of intermittent renewable power generation supplying the electric grid. The hydrogen produced from SOEC can be stored and used for grid-power during periods of high demand, or supplied to hydrogen fueling stations or industry as an alternative to natural gas reforming.