Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

The goal of this topic is to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of fuel cell technologies generating electrical energy in off-grid or isolated micro-grid areas, as stand-alone solution integrated with renewables via electrolyser.

Fuel cell technologies in the power range of 5-200 kW will be demonstrated in minimum 2 sites. Minimum 200 kW total capacity production of power will be demonstrated. Such large power range will allow to address different load requirement of isolated sites (e.g. from single homes to schools).

Existing source of renewable energy will be used, while demonstration of electrolyser of at least 500 kW and storage equipment is in the scope of the project.

The project should:

  • Validate real demonstration units in representative applications of isolated micro-grid or off-grid areas, in order to enable suppliers, end users and general stakeholders to gain experience throughout the value chain; and
  • Demonstrate the added value of the fuel cell-based energy storage solutions with respect to alternative technologies in terms of economics, technical capabilities and environmental benefits.

Further objectives:

  • Demonstration through field applications of the advantages of innovative technologies (hardware or software) including, but not limited to, monitoring, control, diagnosis, lifetime estimation, new BoP components.
  • Online monitoring of operating conditions, load demands and system output will provide initial data to determine the overall efficiency of the system within the testing period.
  • Optimization of power electronics to guarantee a proper integration of fuel cell products with the renewable source and end user/microgrid.

The project will be open to all fuel cell technologies.

Field demonstration usage data, efficiency, reliability are to be reported. Any event (accidents, incidents, near misses) that may occur during the project execution shall be reported into the European reference database HIAD (Hydrogen Incident and Accident Database) at <a href=""https://odin.jrc.ec.europa.eu/engineering-databases.html"">https://odin.jrc.ec.europa.eu/engineering-databases.html</a>.

TRL at start: 6

TRL at end: 7

The consortium should include EU fuel cell manufacturers, relevant suppliers for BoP components and research institutions or academic groups.

The FCH 2 JU considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of EUR 5 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected duration: 3-5 years

A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.

It has been estimated that 1.2 billion people globally will be without electricity access by 2025 [1], in addition 1 billion people are connected to unstable networks and are regularly exposed to power outages [2]. It may thus be considered that 2.2 billion people (i.e. around 35% of the global population) are “under-electrified” [3] with a massive use of diesel generation. Indeed, with an installed diesel production capacity of 600GW [4], for which it has been estimated that half is installed on off-grid sites [5], the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and CO2 emissions is mandatory.

Isolated areas in Europe (e.g. villages, alpine refuges or 1000s of islands) where micro-grid are present in general have high electricity generation cost. Since the production of electricity generally derives from thermal plants powered by fossil fuels, like combined cycle plants or diesel electrical plants, the cost of electrical energy is heavily dependent on the cost of these fossil fuels, their logistics and their transport. Thus, the cost per kilowatt-hour delivered to the end user is definitively higher than that associated with connection to the main network.

The need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to reduce energy costs has guided the investment policies of certain isolated territories in recent years so that, as an example, today numerous islands have significant renewable energy capacity or plan to invest in this sector.

However, most of these isolated territories have not yet been able to guarantee their independence from fossil fuels mainly because of renewables intermittency, thus exploitation of the full potential for energy production by their renewable energy plants is still missing.

Ultimately, RES electricity generation cost is very low. In these conditions of very cheap RES electricity, positive business cases can be built using excess or additional RES to power electrolysers, use hydrogen as energy storage medium and reconvert hydrogen into electricity with fuel cell technology when requested by end-users.

The specific challenge of the topic is to promote in isolated micro-grid and/or off grid sites the implementation of reliable and clean integrated power solution based on fuel cell technology for:

  • decreasing the use of fossil fuel and CO2 emission;
  • decreasing the cost of energy;
  • adoption of RES electricity storage in chemical form (hydrogen) thus enabling wind and solar power to act as stand-alone primary energy sources, solving the intermittency issue for a better security in power supply; and
  • increasing the energy supply independence.

[1] McKinsey Global Institute: Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business and the global economy, p. 98

[2] A.T Kearney report in collaboration with GOGLA, Investment and Finance Study for Off-Grid Lighting, June 2014

[3] IEA (2012); IEA (2013)

[4] The Boston Consulting Group, Revisiting Energy Storage, There is a Business Case, February 2011,p. 10

[5] Siemens Corporate Technology, June 2014, p.58

Following support to development of electrolysers for off-grid applications in AWP2015, this topic will focus on demonstration of integrated fuel cell-based energy storage solutions in off-grid remote areas or isolated micro-grid.

This demonstration must not only raise public awareness; it should be used to establish confidence in technology, business models and market readiness with end-users and authorities of isolated territories.

The project should focus on the following impacts:

  • Energy independency at the local scale, with maximum recovery of locally available RES;
  • Reduction of the cost of energy to the final users
  • Reduction of use of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions
  • Reduce CAPEX towards 5,000€/kW for fuel cell systems and 2M€/(t/d) for electrolysers following the KPIs of the MAWP
  • Increase system lifetime of more than 15 years and maintenance interval by new/improved components according the MAWP
  • Demonstrate a viable solution and a replicable business case
  • Improvement of energy security and reliability
  • Supplier and user experience of installation/commissioning, operation and use of fuel cell power generation

To enable generalization of the field experience obtained, benefit from experience worldwide and facilitate technology replication, it is desirable that the selected project could feed into relevant ongoing standardization activities on fuel cells operating in reversing configuration during the duration of the Innovation Action.

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