FuelCell Energy Announces Cooperation With Fraunhofer IKTS to Develop European Market for Stationary Fuel Cell Power Plants

February 21, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

FuelCell Energy, Inc. announced a memorandum of understanding to form a German-based joint venture with Fraunhofer IKTS (Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems) to develop the market in Europe for Direct FuelCell(R) (DFC(R)) stationary power plants. Additionally, Fraunhofer IKTS will contribute certain assets and their expertise in fuel cells and materials science to the joint venture.

"Germany needs clean baseload distributed power generation and FuelCell Energy has market leading solutions so it is a very good fit for Fraunhofer to work with FuelCell Energy," said Prof. Dr. Alexander Michaelis, director, Fraunhofer IKTS. "The Fraunhofer IKTS team looks forward to applying our materials science and fuel cell expertise to help develop a broader range of applications and markets for FuelCell Energy products and technology."

The joint venture will target the European market for baseload distributed generation from a location in Germany to address the trend towards clean and renewable decentralized power generation. The attributes of stationary fuel cell power plants can help European countries diversify their power generation portfolio and reach sustainability goals as they provide continuous ultra-clean power in a highly efficient process at the point of use. The power generation portfolio of many European countries includes intermittent renewable power generation. Continuous baseload power from stationary fuel cell plants will help balance this intermittency.

"Fraunhofer IKTS brings world-renowned applied research expertise and a vast network of relationships that will help to develop and grow a stationary fuel cell market in Germany, which will then provide a platform for expansion throughout Europe," said Chip Bottone, President and Chief Executive Officer for FuelCell Energy, Inc. "We expect that the combination of complementary knowledge and skill sets of fuel cell technology between our respective organizations is going to be very powerful for further enhancing the performance of Direct FuelCell power plants."

"Strong partners like German-based Fraunhofer IKTS and our recent partnership announcement with Spanish-based Abengoa are helping us execute our European strategy to penetrate and rapidly grow stationary fuel cell installations in Europe," continued Mr. Bottone. "We have an active pipeline of approximately 45 megawatts in Europe developed in just the past year with limited local presence to date, illustrating the strong market potential."

FuelCell Energy will lead market development and servicing efforts for Direct FuelCell power plants as well as support for existing carbonate fuel cell power plants already operating in Europe. Fraunhofer IKTS will contribute research & development resources for enhancing DFC technology and use local knowledge and relationships to assist in market development. FuelCell Energy has established a legal entity in Germany for the joint venture and will retain majority ownership.

There are a number of existing incentives in Europe for stationary fuel cell power plants operating on either clean natural gas or renewable biogas. In Germany for example, a feed-in tariff is promoting adoption of combined heat and power (CHP) power generation as the German government is targeting 25 percent of electricity generation to include CHP by 2020, up from the current level of 15 percent. Additional incentives are available that are specific to fuel cell power generation.

DFC power plants generate electricity and usable high quality heat with an electrochemical reaction that emits virtually no pollutants. Avoiding the emission of NOx, SOx and particulate matter supports clean air regulations and benefits public health. The high efficiency of the fuel cell power generation process reduces fuel costs and carbon emissions, and producing both electricity and heat from the same unit of fuel drives economics while simultaneously promoting sustainability. Fuel cells can achieve up to 90 percent efficiency when configured to use the high quality heat generated by the power plant in a combined heat & power (CHP) mode.

Ultra-clean, efficient and reliable DFC plants can help solve the power generation challenges facing European countries. For example, Germany is targeting a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions, doubling power generation from renewable sources to 35 percent, and aiming to eliminate nuclear power generation by 2022, which accounts for approximately one quarter of existing power generation. DFC power plants are fuel flexible, capable of operating on clean natural gas or renewable biogas. Germany, for example, has an extensive natural gas distribution network, supporting on-site power markets as well as utility grid support.

More news and information regarding the latest developments in Smart Grid electronics can be found at Darnell’s SmartGridElectronics.Net.