On May 29, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy made a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). They are willing to provide up to $30 millionfor cost-shared research and development projects for the advancement of small-scale solid oxide fuel cell systems (SOFC) and hybrid energy systems technology.
The push for multi-use alternative energy
Solid oxide fuel cells are not new. Currently, they are capable of running on a wide variety of gas or liquid fuels. Researchers in Switzerland have managed successfully to develop SOFCs that can reach 75% efficiency. The most efficient engines are only capable of reaching up to 50% efficiency. But there are a few drawbacks to SOFCs. It is possible for them to take up to 20 hours to reach their full efficiency potential, and they run rather hot, reaching temperatures between 932°F and 1830°F. This heat, on the other hand, can be utilized in hybrid SOFC systems for generating hydrogen, or it can be used where both heat and power, cogeneration, are both needed. The DOE is hoping this FOA will help advance the technology forward quickly making it more accessible and cost efficient to compete with other developing forms of alternative energy.
Energy of the future
SOFCs may be the alternative energy of the future. They can be used to create not only electricity, but also hydrogen-rich synthesis gas while at the same time producing the heat as mentioned above. The researchers who developed the high efficiency SOFC stated, “The advantages of the proposed system, particularly in terms of investment cost and weight, would also prove beneficial in other applications related to the transport sector, such as cars, trucks, and airplanes, where the system’s weight constitutes a significant constraint for the design of the power plant.” And that is just what the DOE is hoping. “The Department of Energy plays an important role in advancing innovation to provide clean and reliable energy for the American people,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “This research on SOFC is intended to lower the cost of SOFC systems to a level where they are cost-competitive with alternate technologies with minimal subsidies. The Trump Administration supports researching these advanced technologies and working with private industry to make these systems commercially available for power generation and hydrogen production.”
Applications are being sought in three general areas:
For more information visit the Department of Energy’s website here.
Small-scale distributed power generation SOFC systems.Projects are focused on small-scale applications (5-25 kilowatt)
Hybrid systems using solid oxide systems for hydrogen and electricity production. Proposal for projects will include the validation and development of materials and hybrid energy systems required for improving the cost, performance, and reliability of SOEC using a configuration of hybrid SOFC/SOEC
Cleaning process for coal-derived syngas to be used as SOFC fuel and testing of single and multiple cells on syngas. Projects will leverage existing equipment and develop new processes to clean the contaminants in coal-derived syngas, as well as support developers testing existing materials with a shorter development cycle that have a potential for faster near-term commercialization (approximately 5 years). Existing equipment for the design, fabrication, and testing of a small-scale syngas cleanup system can be connected to a small-scale SOFC (at least 100 watts) stack and a gasifier.