Monday, November 24, 2008

Lilliputian Breaks Silence

But only governor Deval hears - says company will hire 100 additional employees and roll out product in late 2009. CEO Ken Lazurus rumored to have said company will break with tradition and will not freeze vocal chords of new hires! He would not say whether Silicon Valley/Mumbai/Chattanooga BloomEnergy, fellow SOFC mute, will follow suite.

FCI will continue to follow the hand signals.

source: bizjournals

Thursday, November 20, 2008

US Starts Massive Residential Cogen Demonstration Program

The US DOE, joining the ranks of Europe and Japan, has finally 'got with the program' and teamed up with major gas and power utility National Grid and New York's own Plug Power with a proposed installation of one (1) (I) GenSys system at a site to be determined.

'We're late to catch the demontration program fever, so why not go all out' said a DOE spokeman. With the new national regime set to take power January 20th and the economy officially dead in the water (but not literally, not even off the coast of Somalia), now is the time to proceed full ahead with this win-win proposition.

I didn't catch a DOE announcement, but Albany BizJournals is on top of the story:

Plug has been part of the multi-continent two-year program to develop a high-temp PEM system headed by huge German boiler maker Vaillant, supported by both the DOE and EU and including London's world leading university fuel cell goup at Imperial College and a strong Bulgarian team.

I spent a lot of time at the Fuel Cell Seminar in Phoenix three weeks ago with Adam Hawkes of Imperial, the point man for thermal transfer modeling in residential cogen systems. When I noted that the two program was ending still without a successful HT PEM installation by Plug/Vaillant (the low temp installations petered out about 2 1/2 years ago), he said they had gotten a 3-month extension, and everyone's hoping for the best.

I've read subtle and not-so-subtle signals from Japan's NEDO and the US DOE that low temp (60-70° C) required hydrogen too pure for low cost reformers to produce, and too much extra balance-of-plant for water mangement and membrane humidification to have even a dim hope of hitting a viable price point ($5K - $10K at most, $4K preferred).

I have to hustle off to the GreenBuild International now to see if Gary Simon can convince Desmond Tutu to try out one the Acumentrics - MTS AHEAD SOFC 2.5 kW systems in his house. The hot running (750° C) system has a much higher power/heat output ration, and the high quality heat can be used to run an A/C condenser in warmer climates like that of South Africa. Where, to come full circle, Plug has about 100 successful critical back-up 5 kW GenCore systems installed and running.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Not a 'Quantum of Solace" for Fuel Cells!

I just picked up some chatter about Fuel Cells on the recently opened 'Quantum of Solace' James Bond flick. I haven't seen the movie, but after check a number of reviews and comments, this blogger's descritption of the FC scene appears to nail it: "There was one area which, if allowed to go unchecked, could lead back to gadgetry and unbelievable situations - that is that the hotel in the desert had hydrogen piped through all it’s walls. A fuel cell installation would use wires and have the fuel cells in one area of the building. As soon as this was mentioned I thought ‘that’s blowing up’ - and then one chap said ’sounds a bit unstable’. Yep. Definitely." It seems that yes, the building does go up in flames. I posted the following on one website:

I'm a fuel-cell-literate industry analyst, and you've nailed this pretty well Murk. Firstly, the last thing the oft-maligned fuel cell industry needs is perverted bad publicity like this. Not only do current FC CHP (combined heat and power) commercial and residential installations fit your description, i.e. one fuel cell producing power for the building which is of course transmitted by wires, but hydrogen is just about the least explosive and certainly the most volatile of combustible gases.

Natural gas lines have been installed in buildings for 150 years with only the occasional 'incident' as our local gas company calls them, and it is far more dangerous than hydrogen as is gasoline and its heavier-than-air vapor. Hydrogen, if it it does leak, rises and dissipates quickly and therefore might burn on its way out, but it would be almost impossible to create an explosion.

This 'Quantum' scene plays into two popular misconceptions: 1. The Hindenburg was the result of its hydrogen exploding - The blimp was coated with a form of rocket fuel to help contain the volatile gas, and that caught fire, burned and crashed while the hydrogen, burning or not, quickly rose into the atmosphere, and 2. Hydrogen energy from combustion or fuel cells (which involve no burning) has nothing to do with the hydrogen bomb or the sun's energy, the energy from both of which is produced by fusion under extreme heat and pressure. Not only have there been no major safety incidents concerning the 10's of thousands of fuel cell installations around the world (from toys to the coming new Freedom Tower being built at Ground Zero), but there have been no major safety problems with our liquid hydrogen fuelled space shuttle rockets since the early seventies.