Generating Power Locally Instead Of From Central Power Plants
While a large portion of the world has extensive electric grids, there are vast areas, even in developed countries, that remain “off grid”. Typical scenarios include remote industrial facilities and mining and drilling operations.
A company called Bloom Energy has developed stationary fuel cells that can be used in remote areas. Bloom is supplying its equipment to waste water treatment plants, commercial buildings, and even the most advanced data centers operated by eBay, Apple and others.
Fuel cells work by extracting energy from chemical processes of various kinds.
Using Natural Gas To Run Fuel Cells
In a novel approach to fuel cells, General Electric (GE) has set up a research center near Saratoga Springs, New York to run a pilot project with an eye to entering the fuel cell market as a competitor of Bloom.
According to GE, the technology is capable of generating electricity in locations that have a supply of natural gas. The fuel cells will use hydrogen molecules from natural gas and oxygen from air and a novel “fuel cell stack” of various materials sprayed with GE’s patented anode and cathode technology. GE’s technology also uses ceramics and steel materials which it calls “hybrid solid oxide fuel cells,” rather than typical platinum and rare metal varieties. Painstaking testing of different metal and alloy combinations has paid off.
According to GE, it’s new fuel cell technology currently has a power generation efficiency of 65%. If the system captures waste heat produced by the process, overall efficiency reaches 95%.
GE Fuel Cells
GE Fuel Cells will be the entity, a startup company, that will run the pilot program and see to the development, manufacturing and commercialization of fuel cell technology based on its new technology. GE Fuel Cells will rely on 17 fuel cell patents between 2010 and 2013 and an additional 65 related patents filed in previous years.
The following video is a general overview of GE’s breakthrough and shows some witty engineers at work!
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References and related links:
- A Basic Overview of Fuel Cell Technology
- Is 2014 the Year of the Fuel Cell Car? – Scientific American
- Fuel Cell Technologies – Fuel Cell Today