IRL Demonstrates Fuel Cell Generator System

July 25, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

Researchers at Industrial Research Ltd. (IRL, Christchurch, New Zealand) are demonstrating a trial fuel-cell generator system that is capable of providing electricity for a home for remote use where electricity-line costs are prohibitive. The system will combine an electrolyzer to create hydrogen with surplus electricity from renewable sources such as wind turbines or photovoltaic cells running on sunlight. Stored hydrogen will then, through fuel cells, create electricity.

The system includes a blower, a carbon-dioxide scrubber to take gas out of the used air, a dc/ac converter, and hardware and software controls. The fuel cell generates about a unit of heat for each unit of electricity. The system will harness some of this heat to provide domestic hot water.

At present, it costs about $50,000 to $100,000 for a system big enough to provide sufficient electricity to power a house. IRL researchers aim to demonstrate a system within the next year that will power a house for a capital cost of about $5,000 a kilowatt, about the same price as a photovoltaic system.