Fuel Cells 101

Clean energy, a thing of the present…and future

 

Fuel cells provide an alternative to solar, wind and other types of renewable energy.  They can power your home and take you “off grid.”  They can also work in concert with solar, wind and other renewable energy sources to power a home or commercial structure.  Fuel cells were once considered the technology of the future, but have quickly become a clean energy solution for today.

Unlike petroleum-based fossil fuels, fuel cells are a clean energy source creating virtually no toxins or pollutants. The main byproducts are water, heat, and carbon dioxide, The CO2 emissions are substantially less than those produced by conventional power systems.


 

Advantages

 

  • Although fuel cells create their electricity through a chemical reaction, they are more efficient than conventional energy sources. Fuel cells will continue to function as long as the adequate amount of reactants and oxidants are present.
  • One of the byproducts of fuel cells is heat. This heat can be harnessed to heat water or other desired sectors within the commercial or residential property.
  • Fuel cell systems operate quietly, thus making them a perfect addition to your residential property.
  • Fuel cell technology may run on ecologically derived substances like ethanol and methanol.
  • Fuel cell will allow individuals, companies, and even communities to be more energy efficient, while gaining energy independence from foreign fuels.

Disadvantages

 

  • At least for now, a typical residential fuel cell system must have a plentiful supply of natural gas to operate efficiently.  They also tend to operate most efficiently in homes of 3,000 square feet or more.
  • Incentive availability for fuel cell systems may be limited, or nonexistent, in your area. To determine the incentives in your region please visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) website.
  • Many argue that incorporating fuel cells on a national level, let alone independently, is too costly. Not many home or business owners have the budget to invest and maintain a fuel cell system.

 


Technical Description

 

A fuel cell is an electrochemical device which converts a source fuel into electrical current.  The electricity generated inside the cell is a reaction between the fuel and an oxidant. Fuel cells can operate indefinitely, so long as the necessary reactants and oxidants are replenished.  A hydrogen fuel cell uses hydrogen as its fuel and oxygen as an oxidant.   Fuel cells can also use hydrocarbons or alcohol as fuel and chlorine or chlorine dioxide as oxidants.


Types of fuel cells

 

  • Polymer Electrolyte Membrane(PEFC)

This fuel cell is considered to be the most economically friendly choice of fuel cells; however, our hydrogen economy is quite limited. This type of fuel cell also requires an extensive cooling system, which at time makes this an unfavorable choice.

  • Molten Carbonate Electrolyte (MCFC)

Most Scientists believe that these types of fuel cells will be the best choice for electric powerplants. MCFCs are less like to be impacted by CO2 in the atmosphere, like AFCs.

  • Direct Alcohol Fuel Cells (DAFC)

DAFC seems to be the most feasible as a battery replacement for portable items such as laptops, music players, or cell phones. Perhaps soon this type of fuel cell will also become more applicable for transportation.

  • Alkaline Electrolyte (AFC)

These fuel cells require the full time use of “scrubbers”, which mitigate the amounts of carbon dioxide the fuel cell interacts with. Even a small amount of CO2 can prove detrimental to its functions. When used appropriately, efficiency can be as high as 60%.

  • Phosphoric Acid Electrolyte (PAFC)

PAFC remain quite under development towards varies operations; however, studies show its efficiency being similar to that of PEFC systems.

  • Solid Oxide Electrolyte (SOFC)

SOFC fuel cells have operating temperatures of 500-1000*C, which makes them viable for a variety of uses. Scientists believe that this fuel cell type is best for both small and large electric powerplants.


Benefits…

… to your health

Fuel cells release no particulates during operation! They provide your family, friends, and coworkers with a clean and safe environment.

… to the Earth

The byproducts of fuel cells truly make this a clean fuel because they have very little effect on the atmosphere. The CO2 emissions are nothing compared to that of conventional fuels.


Getting Started

 

First, determine your budget and then decide on the size of your specific project. Many states offer various incentives for renewables, so make sure to determine if you are eligible for any rebates. For example, The California Energy Commission is offering cash rebates on eligible grid-connected fuel cells through its Emerging Renewables Program (ERP). To learn about the incentives and rebates in your area visit DSIRE.org.

Our recommendation is to look for companies that offer commercial and residential installation—search our GreenPages for fuel cell providers such as ClearEdge Power.


Fuel Cells. The Future of Energy, Today.


Top Tips

 

Before investing in a fuel cell system, research local companies which will work with your property of choice.  If a large-scale installation is required, make sure that the company is available to provide appropriate ongoing service.


Learn More

Solar Heating for Pools and Spas

Renewable Energy at Home

Home Energy Audit

10 Quick Ways to Green Your Home

Hiring a Home Improvement Professional

10 Comments

  1. mandy lane kinney September 29, 2010
  2. Angie Wriggens September 30, 2010
  3. HowardStone45 September 30, 2010
  4. LVFlowerchild September 30, 2010
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  6. teanna j. October 1, 2010
  7. Reggie Paul October 1, 2010
  8. Joanna Lee October 4, 2010
  9. CloudSkiies November 18, 2010
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