In early December, Marc Marshall and I travelled to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana to install and train staff in the use of SERC’s first combined heat and power (CHP) fuel cell test station. CHP is also known as cogeneration. As reported in our Summer 2015 newsletter, the station was custom built for Professor Neera Jain in Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering.
The test station was designed so that Neera and her engineering students can study the electrical and thermal characteristics of this fuel cell cogeneration system in a simulated residential application. A Ballard fuel cell stack produces the electrical power while waste heat from the stack is transferred to a domestic hot water tank via the fuel cell cooling water system. Custom software allows the researchers to simulate the electrical and domestic hot water use typical of a single-family home. By measuring performance in various conditions, Neera and her students will be able to develop control algorithms to optimize system efficiency.
Household fuel cell cogeneration systems have been field tested over the last few years and are making their way into the market, mainly in Japan and Germany. Panasonic launched its fourth generation fuel cell CHP model in 2015 and has installed over 10,000 units in Japan. Callux continues field-testing in Germany, and is targeting over 500 installed units by mid-2016. Both the Panasonic and Callux cogeneration systems convert natural gas to hydrogen in a reformer before supplying the fuel cell. It will be interesting to follow the progress of these high efficiency and reliable home energy systems as they enter the market.