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Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby AdamB » Sun 17 Dec 2017, 10:38:36

“Fuel Cell Micro-Cogeneration is Market-Ready”

SolidPower’s BlueGen fuel cell unit. More than 1,000 fuel cell micro-cogeneration units have been installed in homes and business in ten countries over the last several years by the ene.field project. Its successor, the PACE project, aims at bringing costs further down, although manufacturers and users say the technology is market-ready. “I thought it would be nice to have my own power plant,” says Jochen Steneberg, a participant in the ene.field project field trial. A demonstration project for fuel cell micro-cogeneration, the ene.field project was funded to the tune of €52.5 million, with matching contributions from industry and the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), a public private partnership supporting research, technological development and demonstration activities in fuel cell and hydrogen energy technologies in Europe. Steneberg is one of 3500 households and businesses across Europe that are currently using fuel cell micro-cogeneration for their heating, hot water and electricity


Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?
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Re: Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Mon 18 Dec 2017, 07:38:38

Fuel cells are functionally flow batteries. Energy is stored by creating hydrogen (or a closely related gas) and then the hydrogen is "burned" to recover the power.

Don't get me wrong, I LIKE fuel cells and the fact that they are so small and efficient, and that pure water is the primary effluent. But hydrogen is hazardous to produce, transport, store, and use. We CAN and SHOULD develope the technology, along with microprocessor controls to make such batteries safe, as we did with Lithium batteries.

Just do not mistake this energy storage technology as a primary energy source.
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Re: Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby hvacman » Tue 19 Dec 2017, 19:26:57

These stationary natural-gas-fired fuel cells co-gen systems, in conjunction with a large continuous heat demand, theoretically could be a great application in the right setting. A lot simpler mechanically than using a micro-gas-turbine or ICE cogen plant. The heat from both the NG-to-h2 conversion and the fuel cell H2-O2 recombination can be used for various process heating processes. I don't see the application for most buildings or residences, though. To make complexities of co-gen pay off, you have to have both a high continuous heat load and power load. That usually means an industrial application, or perhaps something like an big community indoor pool that has pumps and heaters running year-round.

Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico used to have one of the world's largest stationary co-gen fuel cell installations, at 1 megawatt. They have since replaced it with 10 micro-gas-turbines with 2 megawatt total generating capacity. They don't use their boilers much now and, in conjunction with the giant PV array, generate most of their power onsite.

It would be interesting to find out why they switched from fuel cell to micro-turbine....

Oh, and the article mentioned using the cogen to replace space heating at 60% efficiency. Most new boilers and furnaces are at 95% efficient and getting pretty cheap, so you really need to compare the cogen to that standard.
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Re: Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby MD » Tue 19 Dec 2017, 19:36:22

My home power plant dream was to put up a lister type single stage. Ten years ago I was almost there. All cast iron prime mover that could run on raw corn, almost, and last 40 years with minimal maintenance, while putting out 10kw of dirty electric, (200 v two phase 60hz or close... lots of electrical noise but filterable). I still wish I had finished that project, but can't go back.

sold it all and moved to florida to join the tiki bar/ "let me tell you some stories" crowd

so I'm in the seats watching the game. don't really care anymore who wins
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Re: Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby GHung » Thu 21 Dec 2017, 12:27:24

Gosh,, I've had my own power plant for about 20 years. Who needs fuel cells and a big gas bill?

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Re: Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby MD » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 03:33:33

That's an awesome control panel G! Pretty cool until something breaks or wears out... which will happen. hope you have spares and know-how. (to be fair it looks like you have some redundancy in the inverter control section... a good thing)
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Re: Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby GHung » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 10:40:03

I know I'm a dinosaur, Baha, but my point is that this is mature technology, and the system I show above has been producing power nearly 2 decades with only one failure, which never really failed. The vendor warned me that a fan in one of my components was likely to fail and sent me a new one with simple video instructions as to how to replace it. I think that was 13 years ago.

Another thing I'll point out is that we are totally off the electric grid and you are not. In the event of a component failure, it looks like you have the luxury of switching to grid power since your entire system will be down until repairs can be made. My system is modular and has 3X redundancy, which means I will likely only lose part of my production at any one time, while the rest of the system (any one third) can power critical system like refrigeration. The only single point of failure is the battery, and, in my experience, lead-acid batteries give plenty of warning before they fail entirely.

BTW: My monitoring software will sound an alarm if there is a problem. I'll eventually add on the Outback Flexware system which will also alert me via an app or text, but have been quite happy with the Right-Hand Engineering software I've been using for years.

Nothing special or new about your internet-based monitoring except that it is reliant upon a highly complex system called the internet, that you don't control. You are also a customer of Duke Energy or at least have a relationship with them; something I'm not interested in at all.

So there are trade-offs with both systems, eh, and my system likely paid its carbon bill years ago. I'm sure most gridweenies would opt for something like you have, but it isn't for me. If I were to install a similar system to the one I have today, it would look more like this:

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Not so different from what you show. I would want two for redundancy, and an Iron-Edison battery set. A lithium battery, but for a bit of luck, could have burned my house down a couple of years ago.

I'm betting that without early adopters like me, the industry wouldn't be as far along as it is, but I could be wrong. Either way, my system remains one of the best investments I've ever made, and I don't need some tech to come around to fix it. That was always my goal. Most of you will remain utterly reliant upon the hyper-complex off-site systems that you always have been.

Companies like Outback, Trace (now Schneider), Mindnite, Magnum, etc., have been around a long time with proven remarkable reliability, while Tesla is a bit late to the party. I'll keep dancing with the ones that brung me. :) And I'm not convinced Tesla will be around, considering it still hasn't made a profit. Again, I could be wrong.
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Re: Fancy Having Your Own Power Plant?

Unread postby GHung » Tue 26 Dec 2017, 11:57:29

baha wrote:Yep, my dentist has three of those and three 19" half-racks of batteries. It works great and has redundancy. I am repairing two while the third carries the load.

And I will thank you profusely for adopting my solar baby early and helping us along. But now I will pass you by :)

It's OK...The point I am making is anything you hear about solar power is only temporary. It only gets better. We have transitioned from a niche application to a main stream power source. The future will still be grid connected for most people, but the power could come from PV and batteries...


One of my goals early on was to prove, to myself and others, that this could work. I lost count of the folks I know who said I would be begging the power company to bring me power within a couple of years. Those same folks now ask if I'm still off-grid solar, and the answer is "Yep. Haven't paid a power bill in 20 years, and still going strong". Most are now convinced it can work. Others never will be, but I don't care. And I don't care if the tech has "passed me by" either, because, to me, that is irrelevant. My lights NEVER GO OUT and never have. My water system has never failed due to PV/pump failure, and can quickly be repaired if a failure occurred, while the main tank on the ridge gives us days of water in the mean time. No "boil water" announcements here. Meanwhile, I can hear the low hum of the pump, exactly as it should be on a sunny day. It's second nature that if it wasn't humming along, I need to check things, starting with the spring box. Don't need an app for that.

We set aside a bit of the power bill (that we don't pay) for future upgrades and repairs, and I'll have such fun when that time comes, since the technology has moved along so well. By that time, adopters like you will have proven whether or not the new stuff is worthy of my consideration,, or not.

Some of the "improvements" I've seen may be a case of diminishing returns, just as, years ago, tests on small-scale wind turbines found that some of the older, beefier, simpler wind turbines were much better over time. In short, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. My original Outback inverter and charge controllers do exactly what I need them to do, and I haven't seen any need to upgrade for features I neither need nor want. That said, their systems allows me to add features should I desire, but hasn't forced me to pay for if I don't. None of my systems are online (besides being on my separate internal firewalled network) because of security, and it being no one else's business. My home cloud and simple security system/cameras are not internet connected either. I've been data-logging for about 15 years, and if someone wants that data, they need only ask.

Question: If your Powerwall's online systems go down, what happens? Just asking. It would be a shame if you had to shut it down to fix a communication issue. I've been curious about this.

Meanwhile, as I type, my monitoring system just beeped at me, not because there's a problem, but because one array just exceeded it's rated output setpoint. Not a problem, but a good thing on the best solar day we've had in a week. The system can handle the input, no problemo! Nice to know that older panels can still produce above their rated output. That particular array is 12 years old.
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