Regional markets of RES-fuel cell systems for households, Denmark

Type: CaseStudy

Website: www.resfc-market.eu

Case Study (748 Kb PDF)

Summary

The scope of the proposed action is to make a contribution for changing the development of renewable energy sources (RES) fuel cell household systems (FCHS) from solely R&D to include also market development and in this way accelerate the development of the technology and its economic performance.

12 partners from 7 countries representing universities, technological know how centres, suppliers of RES-FCHS and a know-how network carry out this market study.

The target groups of the project are:

  • The suppliers of RES-FCHS
  • The regional and national authorities
  • The RES industry
  • End-users
  • EC

The project is subsidised by a grant from the Intelligent Energy - Europe Programme equivalent to 49.99% of the eligible costs. The project is ongoing and, at the time of writing this case study at the end of 2008, was on the verge to make its first recommendations and conclusion.

Results

By the end of 2008, this ongoing study had identified that the communities and regions that are interested in demonstration of RES-FC market systems are small in number and the number of houses that can participate is also small. Until this time, 1300 potential units had been identified in the period up to 2010. The aggregated market of 3000 houses in the next years therefore needs also the development of new markets after a successful demonstration of the technology.

Lessons learned and repeatability

The technology

It was mutually decided that the fuel cell system would be a PEM fuel cell operating on pure hydrogen with a power level of 0.5 to 1 kW. The RES supply would be generating pure hydrogen in a pipeline system for a new residential area. The houses in these areas would be well insulated because of the low thermal output of the fuel cell system. In this way the system is more focused than all the systems that the individual partners had in mind. With that in mind following lessons were learnt regarding the technology:

  • The conversion of biogas to hydrogen for PEM-FC showed that low temperature fuel cells (although they work with biogas) are not the first choice when biogas should be used in combination with a fuel cell. Too many process steps are needed to refine biogas to the level of natural gas and then transform the biomethane to hydrogen.
  • The combined ethanol/methanol plant from biomass is still under development and cost projections for the fuel are encouraging.
  • The excess wind to hydrogen case lacks understanding of the conditions for optimal operation in the case of direct electricity production versus operation in the electrolyser mode for hydrogen production.
  • The part on the fuel cells and fuel cell CHP systems shows that cost reduction is a very important issue for commercialisation and this is one of the goals for the project.

Special attention has been paid to electrolysis. Integration of wind energy on a bigger scale without cheap electrolysis is not possible, thus finding alternative and cheaper way to produce hydrogen using electrolysers is among the key issues for success of the project. As a part of WP2 representatives of BIC and HIRC visited a Russian manufacturer of alkaline electrolysers.

The market

There have been some difficulties in identifying 3,000 units of RES-fuel cell systems for households in the regional markets. Until now 1300 potential units have been identified in the period up to 2010. The aggregated market of 3,000 houses in the next years therefore needs also the development of new markets after a successful demonstration of the technology. But there is hope: In North-Germany regions with excess wind energy exist. Biomass and biogas are not yet easily adaptable to hydrogen fuelled fuel cell CHP for households, but there is a plan to have 450 fuel cell CHP systems for households by 2010, 2.250 units by 2012, and 72.000 units p.a. by 2020, spread over Germany. The following observations were a.o. found to hamper the early identification of 3,000 units of RES-fuel cell systems for households:

Regulation

There is a general lack of public regulation of fuel cells, and there are safety concerns regarding use of the hydrogen. There are no specific regulation/subsidies/guaranties/tax reductions on the coupling of RES and FCHS. The framework conditions regarding legislation in Denmark are complex and it is not yet certain under which regulations and paragraphs a RES FCHS can operate.

Barrier

The cost of fuel cells is too high and hydrogen is much more expensive than natural gas. Biomass route is not established for methanol production and ethanol reforming is not an option.

Stakeholders

Some specific locations and/or projects are mentioned. But the planning of the projects is still in its initial phase. The main constraint for fuel cells market in Portugal is the lack of information on the technology itself by the main stakeholders, in particular households and building owners and constructors, and the price of the FC system elements (FCs and electrolysers).

3 preliminary lessons learnt

  • Cost reduction is necessary for commercialisation of RES-fuel cell systems for households
  • There is a general lack of public regulation of fuel cells
  • There have been some difficulties in identifying 3,000 units of RES-fuel cell systems for households in the regional markets.

Administrative lessons learnt

So far time delays have been one of the biggest issues. To make sure that partners deliver their deliverables on time it has been a good approach to show thing with graphics as below. This makes the big forest of different deadlines easier to cope with.

The project coordinator recommends tough management and strong leadership, but with focus on dialog and mutual respect for each partner's tight work schedule. It is important that the coordinator spends a lot a time proving the participants with a general view of the scope and process of the project. Repetitions are inevitable and a keyword to the success of the project.

Contacts