The area of USV systems – along with the mobility sector and the supply of domestic energy – offers a wide range of possible applications to fuel cells. Since 2010, the Clean Power Net (CPN) sector network has been focusing on companies which work in the areas of the uninterrupted and off-grid supply of electricity, or Smart Grids. One of the most important projects in this field is the large-scale order to the value of 6.6 m. Euros for equipping more than 100 radio masts in Brandenburg, Germany, with fuel cell systems for the purpose of emergency power supply.
In the course of modernization measures, in recent years, the radio operations of authorities and organizations with security tasks in Germany (police departments, the fire department, technical relief, etc. – in Germany aka BOS) have been changing over from analog to digital radio technology. With 500,000 users, the new BOS digital radio network in Germany is the biggest of its kind in the world. As part of the changeover measures, in the federal state of Brandenburg, a total of 116 fuel cells are going into use as emergency power systems at the base stations of the BOS digital radio network to ensure reliable electricity supplies. The fuel cells are set to function as USV systems and replace the diesel generators that have been used in most cases.
In the field of German digital radio communications, the widely used TETRA standard (terrestrial trunked radio) is used. Fourteen European countries already have a network of this kind, and along with Germany, eight countries are currently building one and another two are planning to. For Henrik Colell, the spokesman of CPN and managing director of the Berlin-based fuel cell manufacturers Heliocentris, this widespread use is a key advantage. He believes there to be great potential in equipping numerous new locations with fuel cell technology if the current field test is a success. Then, the potential market would not only encompass the 4,500 base stations which are currently available in the German BOS digital radio network, but thousands more – throughout Europe and the world.
Initially, however, as part of the BOS field test, the FC emergency power systems will be examined for around two years (approximately until March 2016) and run in parallel to the actual operations. If their use proves to be a success, a further roll-out can then be considered. Colell made the following statement when the order was awarded in February 2014: “This order clarifies the huge trust and potential that authorities can see in fuel cell technology, since if an outage or interruptions were to occur, they would result in supply shortages and a considerable impairment to public safety.”
During this field test in Brandenburg, PEM systems from two different manufacturers will go into use which will be installed by a total of three competing groups of companies. The then independent company FutureE Fuel Cell Solutions was awarded the contract to equip 53 base stations with Jupiter type USV systems together with its service partner, adKor GmbH. Every two units of this 48V fuel cells module provide an output of 4 kW, and as per the requirements, they are installed in a robust casing (resistance class 4) and sufficiently protected for outdoor use. Mark-Uwe Osswald, the founder of FutureE, explained: “We are convinced that in the future, fuel cell systems will play an increasingly important role in the field of emergency power systems as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional solutions. We are planning more projects across Germany with adkor.”
A further 25 locations have been awarded to Heliocentris and FutureE along with their service provider telent. With this second project, their fuel cell solution has been extended with the energy management system from Heliocentris and integrated in a container together with the hydrogen unit in order to ensure a straightforward installation. Ayad Abul-Ella, CEO Heliocentris Energy Solutions AG, explained: “By using one of our modular and flexible energy management systems, we can achieve the highest levels of transparency through the monitoring of the emergency power system, and enable smooth and above all uninterrupted operations at the locations.”
In June 2014, Heliocentris Energy Solutions AG took over FutureE Fuel Cell Solutions GmbH, a move on which Ayad Abul-Ella had the following to say: “This means that we have established ourselves as a leading supplier of energy solutions that are based on fuel cells for the safeguarding of radio masts for radio communications between authorities in Germany.”
The third batch was awarded to the consortium of Mastbau Gärtner (MBG), Hoppecke/ReliOn, Generex and AdPos. The Berlin-based company MBG is falling back on the E-2500 and E-1100 fuel cell modules from Plug Power. In addition to its FC units for low-floor vehicles (GenDrive), the American (USA) company also has its own brand for stationary back-up modules (ReliOn) which are going into use here.
Short power outages that last less than 15 minutes are bridged by the accumulators which have also been installed at all three providers. In the event of longer power outages, the fuel cell then supplies the locations with electricity. The first systems entered test operations in the summer of 2014.
According to Prof. Siegfried Rolle from Wildau University of Applied Sciences, the emergency power systems have to be configured for a total bridging period of 72 hours. Rolle is the Director of the Laboratory for Regenerative Energy Technology at Wildau University of Applied Sciences (THWi) and is providing the project with scientific support. For his investigative work, a demonstration container was constructed at the THWi in which an FC emergency power system is installed that has a nominal output of 2.5 kW.
Prof. Rolle made the following comments on why fuel cells are superior to diesel generators: “Diesel generators are high maintenance, environmentally unfriendly, and over the long term, increases in the price of diesel can be expected due to limits in its global availability. The FC emergency power supply system constitutes an environmentally friendly alternative: along with its other attributes it is low maintenance, reliable, almost silent to operate, and through the straightforward extension of the fuel store, it is also flexible in terms of its bridging duration. Furthermore, if hydrogen is used, a major fuel leak would not cause any damage to the environment.”
A long run-up
After the German federal government decided to create the requirements for the step-by-step introduction of digital radio throughout Germany to replace the analog radio in 2003, the implementation took more than ten years. On December 31st 2014, the Digital Radio BOS Brandenburg project was completed. On January 1st 2015, the Authorized Agency for Digital Radio in the Federal State of Brandenburg (AS DF) began operating, since when it has served as the operational control center for all of the authorities and organizations with security tasks in the state.
The presentation of the government grant in total of 3.17 m. Euros for the “Hydrogen emergency power systems for authorities and organizations with security tasks in the federal state of Brandenburg” project took place on November 26th 2012.