Europe aims to be World-Class Center of Fuel Cell Technology

May 06, 2018 by Paul Shepard

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is coordinating a five-year European consortium worth more than €10 million, which is developing commercial applications from SOFC fuel cell technology. The aim is to implement the reliable production of low-emission electricity and heat, which will lead to significant efficiency gains and carbon emissions savings compared to traditional energy production methods.

New, commercial and energy-efficient fuel cell applications are emerging from the ComSos (Commercial-scale SOFC systems) EU project, which is being coordinated by VTT. The project involves the demonstration of fuel-cell based energy solutions in authentic client environments, in cooperation with leading European system experts.

Convion Oy of Finland is participating in the project, alongside Sunfire GmbH from Germany and SOLIDpower SpA from Italy. The ComSos project will involve the implementation of at total of 25 SOFC technology-based power generation solutions around the world.

"Through the project, we will develop world-class commercial products on the basis of European fuel cell expertise. VTT has been developing fuel cell technology for over a decade and we have strong system expertise. We are now bringing this expertise to a project in which we are ensuring that the equipment is efficient, environmentally friendly and provides added value to end-users," says Project Coordinator Jari Kiviaho of VTT.

Fuel cell components

SOFC technology has major potential in the bio and circular economy, as it enables the scalable, highly efficient utilization of biogas. The technology is also suitable for small-scale, decentralized local production.

When combined with solar and wind power, SOFC evens out daily fluctuations in the power grid. The technology can be utilized wherever electricity and heat are needed, for example in industry, data centers, hospitals, hotels, households and agriculture.

The advantages of fuel cell technology over competing technologies are emphasized in small plants of under 1MW. For example, Convion Oy, Sunfire GmbH, and SOLIDpower's fuel cell power plants operate with an efficiency of well above 50%, thereby producing much more electrical energy than conventional power plants, for the same amount of fuel.

Another important task of the project is to provide open information and data on SOFC technology and its applicability. People such as decision-makers, technology developers and all potential customers will benefit widely from this.

This five-year project (2018 - 2020) has a budget of €10.2 million and has received €7.4 million funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 779481. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program, Hydrogen Europe and Hydrogen Europe research.

In addition to VTT, which is coordinating the project, the European lead consortium consists of Convion Oy Finland, Sunfire GmbH of Germany and SOLIDpower SpA of Italy, Politecnico di Torino (Department of Energy) of Italy, Blueterra BV of Holland and HTceramics SA of Switzerland are also involved.

ComSos project members include:

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is one of the leading research, development and innovation organizations in Europe. We help our customers and society to grow and renew through applied research. The business sector and the entire society get the best benefit from VTT when we solve challenges that require world-class know-how together and translate them into business opportunities

Convion is a leading supplier of fuel cell systems, focusing on the commercialization of products in the power range of over 50kW for decentralized power and heat generation. Convion's employees have more than 10 years of experience in the development and commercialization of energy-efficient and zero-emission fuel cell systems. The company's owners include VNT Management and Wärtsilä.

The SOLIDpower Group is the European leader on SOFC technology, with more than 1000 micro-CHP (combined heat and power) appliances deployed. The Group develops, manufactures and markets fuel cell systems for generating power and heat in residential and commercial buildings at locations in Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Australia.

Sunfire develops and manufactures systems for renewable industrial gas and fuel production. These substitutes for mineral oil and natural gas, known as e-gas, e-fuel or e-chemicals, replace fossil fuels in existing infrastructures. The solid oxide cells (SOCs) used for the conversion process are also used as generators to provide electricity and heat.