Grid electricity from natural and bio gas using fuel cell technology
Solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology is showing promise with regard to
future electricity production. VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has
built a system that uses fuel cells to produce grid electricity from natural
gas. What makes the system unique is that the electric power produced comes
from a single 10 kW planar SOFC stack. The technology is being developed as
part of the Tekes Fuel Cell Programme.
Construction of the large SOFC power plants of the future will require
high-power fuel cell stacks. This is the first time a 10 kW power class planar
SOFC fuel stack is being operated as part of a complete fuel cell system.
The system is currently undergoing endurance testing to determine component
reliability, durability and development needs. Some of the system’s components
are prototypes developed at VTT that have not yet reached mass production.
Since the beginning of November 2010 the system has completed more than 1,500
hours of reliable and continuous operation. The electricity produced equates
to the average annual consumption of five apartments in an apartment block.
SOFC fuel cell technology is an extremely low-emission energy source. The SOFC
technology can be used to utilize a wide range of different fuels, including
biogas, which is normally difficult to exploit efficiently using other
Lappeenranta University of Technology and Aalto University are among those
participating in the project, which is coordinated by VTT and jointly funded
by Tekes - the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation and
Finnish industrial companies. Development of the system’s power electronics,
used in transforming direct current produced by the SOFC into alternating
current suitable for the grid, was carried out at Lappeenranta University of
Technology. Aalto University has participated in the unit’s mechanical design.
The SOFC stack for the system was supplied by Versa Power Systems Inc. of
Apart from funding, Finnish companies are also involved in development and
gathering of experience regarding the application of their own products to
SOFC systems. Wärtsilä Finland Oy, among others, is exploiting experiences
garnered under the research project in its own SOFC system development work.
MEDIA MATERIAL: VTT’s SOFC fuel cell
system is located in Espoo, Finland (Photo: VTT)