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Fuel Cell Stacks Still Going Strong After 5,000 Hours

March 24, 2009 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC -- Two fuel cell stacks developed by FuelCell Energy (FCE) in partnership with Versa Power Systems achieved 5,000 hours of service in February, meeting a goal of the U.S. Department of Energy's Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA). The milestone marks a step toward the ultimate SECA objective of providing low-cost solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology for coal-based power plants and other power generation applications.

The FCE/Versa Power fuel cell stacks not only surpassed SECA's requirement of 5,000 hours of service, they also exhibited an overall degradation of only 1.7 percent and 2.6 percent per 1,000 hours--much less than SECA's 2008 (interim) target of 4.0 percent per 1,000 hours. One of the fuel cell stacks continues to run; the data will be used to further assess and refine the current design.

"The team's successful scale-up puts us firmly on the road to incorporating this highly efficient SOFC technology in a wide range of settings, including distributed generation and combined heat and power applications--from tens to hundreds of kilowatts and eventually, megawatts," said Robert Stokes, CEO of Versa Power Systems.

The fuel cells' strong performance has won a project continuation from DOE in which the FCE team is challenged to build a minimum 25-kilowatt SOFC stack that will meet SECA requirements for both performance and manufacturing costs. The new stack is to form the basis for a minimum 250-kilowatt fuel cell power module and a 5-megawatt proof-of-concept system that will operate on coal-derived synthesis gas, a fuel created by reacting coal at high temperatures. Fuel cell scale-up is part of SECA's manufacturing strategy to produce the overall lowest SOFC system cost.

Successful testing of the two SOFC stacks, which are around 10 kilowatts each, reflects the excellent progress being made by the team toward the SECA goals. The testing was completed as part of a multi-phase project that is also benefitting the Nation through the creation of more than 300 jobs that will extend over the project's 6+ years.

Future SECA program objectives include:

  • By 2010, a stack test running for 5,000 hours with a degradation of less than 2.0 percent per 1,000 hours and costs of $700 per kilowatt or less for the system power block.
  • By 2012, a 250-kilowatt to 1-megawatt fuel cell module demonstration.
  • By 2015, a 5-megawatt proof-of-concept fuel cell system to demonstrate system integration, heat recovery turbines, and power electronics.
  • By 2020, a full-scale demonstration of a 250- to 500-megawatt integrated gasification fuel cell power plant.

Integrated gasification fuel cell plants incorporating SECA SOFCs are expected to achieve an overall operating efficiency of greater than 50 percent--15 percentage points higher than today's average U.S.-based coal-fired power plant--while separating at least 90 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions for capture and environmentally secure storage. The SOFC systems must also be cost-competitive with other power generation technologies.

The SECA teams will continue to pursue improvement in cell design and materials for better performance and reduction of cost. SECA, which is managed and supported by DOE through the Office of Fossil Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, conducts fuel cell research and development to meet national needs for producing low-cost power with near-zero emissions.