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Fuel cell field test demonstration of economic and environmental viability for portable generators, backup and UPS power system applications

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Fuel cells empower grids

Cumbersome banks of batteries and diesel generators provide the vast majority of emergency power. EU-funded researchers demonstrated that fuel cell powered systems are a better back-up solution for irregular disruptions in power grids.

Energy

A backup power source may be called into use only a few times each year; but, when needed, it is absolutely necessary to function as expected. Recent advances in hydrogen fuel cell technologies have provided an attractive environmentally friendly solution. Proton exchange membrane fuel cells' operation relies on a chemical reaction. Not having any moving parts minimises the chances of parts wear out and failure. They operate as long as there is hydrogen fuel and can remain autonomous for longer periods when compared to batteries and diesel generators. Within the framework of the EU-funded project FITUP (Fuel cell field test demonstration of economic and environmental viability for portable generators, backup and UPS power system applications), 19 fuel cell systems were installed as backup power sources throughout Europe. End-users were selected from the telecommunications industry and also included four research centres. They utilised fuel cell-based uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems at their sites for power consumption levels ranging between 1 and 10 kilowatts (kW). The FITUP project's main objective was to demonstrate the superior performance of fuel cell UPS systems over diesel generators and batteries. To achieve this, the project team performed monthly blackout simulations following a rigorous testing protocol and measurements gathered were continuously evaluated. All the tests in the FITUP project covered a total of 10 397 cycles. The average reliability of the systems tested reached 99.4 % that is well above the initial goals. The total energy production during the tests surpassed 18.7 megawatt-hours with an average power output of 2.85 kW for the systems tested. A lifecycle analysis revealed the environmental benefit of fuel cell technology over batteries and diesel generators. Besides comprehensively evaluating the systems' performance in real-world conditions, FITUP helped provide certification standards valid in the EU Member States and Associated Countries. It is expected that the FITUP project's legacies will contribute to qualifying fuel cell UPS installations for market entry, thereby accelerating their commercialization in Europe and beyond.

Keywords

Fuel cells, diesel generators, power grid, uninterruptible power supply systems, certification standards

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29 April 2021