Fuel Cell Manufacturer ClearEdge Power Lands Deal With Güssing Renewables
In a milestone event for the fuel cell industry, ClearEdge Power has landed the largest order to date for stationary fuel cells. The Hillsboro, Oregon based company will be delivering 8.5 MW of capacity by 2015 and the full 50 MW by 2020 to Austrian utility Güssing Renewable Energy.
ClearEdge Power won its big break due to the company’s scalable suite of residential fuel cell systems, which start at 5 kW and can be combined incrementally to provide up to 200 kW. This scalability proved decisive in securing the deal with Güssing, which intends to create a distributed network of fuel cells that will run on biogas
extracted from local agricultural and forestry operations.
Güssing, an administrative district of about 30,000 in southeastern Austria, already achieved acclaim as the first community to generate its entire energy demand entirely from local, renewable resources. Clean energy initiatives have brought the region out of poverty by attracting businesses and innovators with low, stable energy prices–a sharp contrast to Austria’s roughly 1€/kW costs.
Biomass Gasification Offers Novel Approach to Powering Fuel Cells
ClearEdge Power’s fuel cells use natural gas as a fuel source from which hydrogen is extracted and combined with oxygen to create a powerful electrochemical reaction. However, a wide range of hydrogen-containing fuels can also be employed including methane, propane, and even
water, which can be split into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis.
Güssing’s gasification project uses agricultural and forest waste to produce biogas, which is typically composed of about 60-75% methane and 20-33% carbon dioxide. This gas can be purified to remove some or all of the inert carbon dioxide, leaving pure methane. Apparently, ClearEdge Power is adapting their hydrogen generation technology to accommodate this fuel source.
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Yields 90% Efficiency, Lower Emissions
While Güssing has already been utilizing its biogas to generate heat and power, their existing power plant uses combustion to produce energy. In contrast, fuel cells utilize an electrochemical process that can transform the same fuel into heat and power with about 40% less carbon emissions, as well as no particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, NOx or SOx.
By deploying ClearEdge Power’s fuel cells in distributed micro CHP applications, where both the electricity generated by the process and its heat by-products are employed, they will be able to achieve 90% system efficiency–reducing the amount of fuel needed to meet energy demands.