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.

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