The success of marketing a new technology hinges on the number of people who know how to install, maintain and repair it properly. In 2014, the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking launched the KnowHy project to disseminate knowledge of fuel cell technologies that had reached near-market maturity. Supported by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Program, the project became more detailed as the years passed. Now fully developed, it will continue until 2020.
Heating system manufacturer Vaillant has – again – put its fuel cell business on hold. Management announced on March 14, 2017, during the ISH in Frankfurt, Germany, that it had “reduced development capacities in fuel cells [and] put the market introduction of the fuel cell heating system for single-family buildings on hold for the time being.” Instead, Carsten Voigtländer, CEO of the Vaillant Group, intends to put a greater focus on renewable energy and heat pumps. In his view, “there currently is no fuel cell heating system that would be economically feasible for owners of real estate.”
On Aug. 1, 2016, the heating industry got the certainty they wanted with regard to the future policy framework for state-of-the-art fuel cell heating systems: The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) announced two new subsidy programs, one providing an investment grant for fuel cell heating systems and one for optimizing heating technology by replacing old pumps. Both financial measures are part of the Incentive Program Energy Efficiency (APEE)
Is that already the market for fuel cell heating systems which everyone has worked toward for so long? No, not quite, because the Technology Rollout Program (TEP) has not yet come into force. And as long as neither manufacturers nor customers have some kind of planning security, nothing will happen. That much became clear during the SHK Essen in Germany. But TEP could apparently become a reality this summer
“Through the first six weeks of this year alone, we received more requests than during all of 2015,” Andreas Frömmel from German FuelCell Energy Solutions reported during the E-world 2016. That should come as no surprise: Large-scale fuel cell plants have gained in popularity ever since the German parliament amended the CHP Act at the end of last year and put the transition rules on paper (see New Rule for Fuel Cell Heating Systems). Plants ordered until the end of 2016 and built by the end of 2017 can still receive the full CHP benefits as per the CHP Act from 2012 – independently of their power output. This section of the law will benefit even megawatt-size power plants.
Japanese Fuji Electric bought up N2telligence, based in Wismar, Germany, at the beginning of this year. The company, which had introduced several TriGeneration and QuattroGeneration modules in collaboration with its Japanese partner (see ZBT system), announced in a press release that Fuji Electric Europe had acquired a majority stake (70%) in N2telligence on Jan. 11, 2016. The company name was subsequently renamed to Fuji N2telligence.
The German CHP Act (KWKG) has been a long-time source of subsidies for stationary units producing heat and power as efficiently as possible. Once every few years, these types of laws are revised and naturally, the revisions spark heated debates months before any political decision is made. Just in the nick of time – shortly before the end of last year – the Bundesrat finally approved the CHP Act 2016, so that it could go into effect on January 1.
Since the end of last May, the Center for Fuel Cell Technology (ZBT) in Duisburg has had a phosphoric acid fuel cell (PAFC) in operation, which supplies the research institute with power and heat. The 100-kW unit even took on three additional tasks: It reduces energy costs, it serves as the basis for scientific studies in combined heat and power and it helps to produce air low on oxygen.
Intelligent power networks and smart grid systems are demanding increasingly decentralized technologies that combine the storage and conversion of energy. Before this backdrop, in the scope of the EU’s CISTEM project (Construction of Improved HT-PEM MEAs and Stacks for Long Term Stable Modular CHP Units), a combined heat and power technology (CHP) has been developed on the basis of high temperature polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (HT-PEM FCs), which is able to provide an electrical output of up to 100 kWel. In addition to electricity generation, the heat produced by the HT-PEM fuel cell is used locally
The political statements are now being trotted out on an almost weekly basis. This should come as no surprise, since more power-to-gas projects are now starting than ever before. We repeatedly hear things like “PtG technology has the potential to lead the energy transition to success.” Such statements were to be heard most recently, for example, at the commissioning of the facility in Ibbenbüren and in Mainz, and also at the initialization of the project in Solothurn, Switzerland.