New fuel cell off-grid power solution to challenge diesel

Posted: June 7, 2018 by oldbrew in Energy, innovation
Tags: ,

Gencell A5 unit [image credit: Gencell]


Diesel generators are big business in many rural areas with limited electrical power supplies and other players are looking for a slice of the action, claiming various advantages including immunity from fuel theft, as PEI reports.

A new fuel cell solution for primary power applications, launched this week, could compete on price for the first time with diesel gensets, its maker GenCell Energy says.

The Israeli firm said its hydrogen-fuelled A5 unit is designed to provide 24/7 power for off-grid and poor-grid sites and will initially be aimed at the telecom tower market.

It claims a typical telecom provider could save up to $250m across 1000 towers over ten years compared to the cost of diesel generators.

The cost barrier involved with building-out hydrogen fuel infrastructure has long relegated fuel cells to backup power applications. But GenCell says it has reduced system costs to $0.50/kWh by using ammonia to generate hydrogen, which required a redesign of the conventional fuel cell.

“Ammonia is the second most produced inorganic chemical you can find all over world,” said Rami Reshef, GenCell’s CEO. “We’ve developed a process that allows us to extract hydrogen from ammonia with ten times the efficiency of other solutions.

“There are different technologies that can extract hydrogen from ammonia, however they consume much more power from the grid than the potential energy you will deliver. Our process allows extraction without any connectivity to the grid.”

And unlike diesel generators, which require monthly fuelling and maintenance at each telecom tower, the company claims that one 12-tonne tank of ammonia provides its system with enough fuel for a year of 24/7 operation.

This week’s product launch “is big news, not just for us,” said Reshef, “but for any business that needs primary power beyond the grid.”

Full report here.

See also: Nanoptek: Backup Power & Telecom

Comments
  1. E.M.Smith says:

    Has a shot at working.

    https://finance.yahoo.com/news/did-ammonia-prices-trend-last-132744668.html

    Ammonia prices for Tampa CFR (cost and freight) moved down 1.6% to $315 per metric ton compared to $320 per metric ton in the previous week. Prices for the US Gulf NOLA (New Orleans) also inched down by about 1.5% to $320 per metric ton from $325 per metric ton a week ago.

    You don’t get the BTUs from burning the carbon in an HC, but the price is low. Diesel is about 8 lbs / gallon so a metric ton of 2200 lbs is about 275 gallons. At $3 / gallon (presently 4$ / gallon in California…) that would make a ton of Diesel $825. So you’ve got $500 of price advantage. The N and C will be about the same percentage of the weight, so mostly the question will be how much energy is lost in not burning C and is that worth $500.

    But this is going to be an issue:

    https://nh3fuelassociation.org/comparisons/

    Cost effective NH3 has historically been priced competitively with gasoline and petroleum on an energy content (i.e., $/MM BTU basis). NH3 is currently produced from natural gas and coal. Current (April 2010) U.S. prices for coal, natural gas, and gasoline are $1.20, $3.97, and $20.00 per million BTU respectively. Since NH3 is currently made from coal and natural gas, both of which are substantially lower in cost than gasoline, NH3 will generally be cost competitive with gasoline as long as the historical relative cost difference between coal, natural gas and gasoline remain.

    Since a stand alone Diesel can run on natural gas (or propane) as a co-fuel (See Cummins who will sell you one) this means you can run on piped natural gas directly instead of taking conversion losses.

    The alternative is running your ammonia fuel cell on repackaged coal… Oh Dear…

  2. ivan says:

    More green arm waving.

    Their website is long on hype and very short on actual information. All I was able to glean is that this is a 4kW 48vDC unit that is aimed at telecom operators that want to do virtue signalling in their publicity. There was nothing about price per unit so I assume that if you ask the price you can’t afford it.

    I can get a 4kW 240vAC diesel generator for about €500 and all parts are readily available and it is easy to maintain. I suspect this fuel cell costs an arm and a leg and if anything goes wrong it costs the other arm and leg for repairs that takes weeks.

    It would be news if they produced a drop in replacement for a diesel genset at the same cost and the same ease of use and repair, that a builder can throw up on to the back of his truck with all the other equipment and expect it to continue working. Until that happens all this ‘green energy’ production is nothing but hype and virtue signalling.

  3. ivan says:

    More green arm waving.

    Their website is long on hype and very short on actual information. All I was able to glean is that this is a 4kW 48vDC unit that is aimed at telecom operators that want to do virtue signalling in their publicity. There was nothing about price per unit so I assume that if you ask the price you can’t afford it.

    I can get a 4kW 240vAC diesel generator for about €500 and all parts are readily available and it is easy to maintain. I suspect this fuel cell costs an arm and a leg and if anything goes wrong it costs the other arm and leg for repairs that takes weeks.

    It would be news if they produced a drop in replacement for a diesel genset at the same cost and the same ease of use and repair, that a builder can throw up on to the back of his truck with all the other equipment and expect it to continue working. Until that happens all this ‘green energy’ production is nothing but hype and virtue signalling.

  4. oldbrew says:

    ivan – at least the fuel can’t be easily stolen so no security guard needed.

  5. Dave Ward says:

    “I suspect this fuel cell costs an arm and a leg”

    I have no doubt that it does – If you really want to throw money at Camping & Caravanning you can now buy Fuel Cells to provide 12 volt DC power:

    https://www.fuelcellsystems.co.uk/product/efoy-comfort-210/

    Five and a half grand to get just 105 watts output! AND it runs on methanol which you have to buy separately (only 68 quid for what looks like 2 x 5 litres?)!

    I think hell will freeze over before “A drop in replacement for a diesel genset at the same cost” is on the market…

  6. stpaulchuck says:

    there are affordable propane and natgas units all over the place. There are also gas dealers all over the farm country.

  7. oldbrew says:

    Day–night temperature fluctuations power hydrogen evolution

    Scientists in China and Hong Kong have split water at room temperature using a special type of functional material that can generate an electric charge from the natural change in temperature from day to night. The team used nanoparticles that can convert thermal energy into an electric charge big enough to catalytically split water molecules into hydrogen gas.

    http://www.chemistryworld.com/news/daynight-temperature-fluctuations-power-hydrogen-evolution/3009142.article

    But can it scale up to industrial amounts, and if so would that be at realistic cost?

  8. dscott says:

    whoa, wait a minute here, WHAT IS THE COST OF THIS UNIT? Several years ago after reading about an improved fuel cell unit, I had suggested installing a fuel cell co-generation plant at a facility I worked. Everyone loved the concept and potential savings. The big show stopper was the multi-million dollar cost of the unit, in the end they went diesel. Mind you these were very “liberal” decision makers.

  9. ralfellis says:

    Bladon Jets of the UK are offering a turbine based genset. The advantage being multifuel capability, and very long service i tervals, and engine life.

    http://www.bladonjets.com

    .

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