European Consortium Targets Development of SOFC Power Plants

February 15, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

The Finland-based Technical Research Center (VTT), a coordinator of a research consortium, is seeking to determine what materials, components and systems are needed to ensure efficient, reliable and cost-effective leading Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) power plants. The consortium will also focus on systems design and balance of plant component engineering, including heat exchangers. Part of the project’s activity will be to assess processes and materials that are essential for low cost stock production.

The element that will effectively make the concept a commercial success is stack production. For the research consortium, heightening this possibility means concentrating on building sizeable quantities of stack for non-pressurised CHP units and pressurised units generating power. Other aspects of the project include examining the grid connection and fuels, as well as exploring the impact on the environment.

The importance of SOFC-based power plants has intensified immensely in recent years. Experts believe that the players involved in this type of power generation will have the ability to get the units up and running by 2010. Current data show that the power stations will have a generation capacity of 20-50 to 250kW and up to 1MW, and will use pressurised and non-pressurised technologies.

Analysts have also noted that the units will be suitable both for CHP and power-only in distributed generation applications. Based on the latest information, the units should be commercialized by 2015. According to VTT, in order to guarantee the units' success, four components are needed: 1) operational benefits of high fuel efficiencies; 2) multi-fuel capabilities; 3) low emissions; and 4) use of bio-fuels including gas from natural gas and biomass gasification.

The consortium is comprised of the following European groups: VTT of Finland, BOSAL RESEARCH nv, Dipartimento di Ingegneria Chimica e di Processo "G.B. Bonino" – Università di Genova, Forschungszentrum Jlich GmbH, Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems Ltd, Topsoe Fuel Cell A/S, Verteco Oy and Inmatec Technologies GmbH, Wärtsilä Corporation.