MORGANTOWN, W. VA - A prototype of the first fuel cell capable of being manufactured at a
cost approaching that of conventional stationary power technology has
been successfully tested as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Solid
State Energy Conversation Alliance (SECA) program.
GE Hybrid Power Generation Systems, of Torrance, Calif., received high
marks for the recently completed testing of its prototype solid oxide
fuel cell (SOFC) system. The prototype exceeded DOE targets for availability,
efficiency, endurance, and estimated production cost. As a result, GE
was green-lighted for phase II of the SECA program, with its more stringent
performance and cost targets. GE is the first of six SECA industry teams
to complete phase I of the program.
"The vision of an economy driven by clean and economical fuel cells
has taken a major step toward reality through this successful prototype,"
said SECA Coordinator Wayne Surdoval. "GE's success lets us know that
the environmentally sound, low-cost fuel cells of the future are within
While the environmental and efficiency benefits of fuel cells have been
well known for many years, this is the first fuel cell prototype with
the low cost potential needed for the technology to become commonplace
in energy markets. The cost of GE's prototype system is estimated at $724
per kilowatt for an annual production of 50,000 units, surpassing the
SECA phase I target of $800 per kilowatt.
"Progress in cost reduction is critical to the widespread deployment
and market penetration of SOFC technology," said SECA Project Manager
Travis Shultz. "At $400 per kilowatt-the SECA phase III target, and nearly
one-tenth the cost of power-generating fuel cells currently sold on the
market-fuel cells would compete with traditional gas turbine and diesel
electricity generators for stationary applications, and would become viable
auxiliary power suppliers for the transportation sector."
The Energy Department projects that SECA technology will save the Nation
more than $50 billion by 2025 through increased efficiency and lower fuel
During testing, GE's SOFC system operated at an availability of 90 percent,
exceeding the SECA phase I target of 80 percent. A peak power of 5.4 kilowatts
was achieved on methane fuel, within the target range of 3-10 kilowatts.
An efficiency of 41 percent was realized, exceeding the phase I target
of 35 percent for stationary applications. Observed steady-state power
degradation was less than 3.6 percent per 1,000 hours, below the phase
I target of 4 percent per 1,000 hours.
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts the chemical energy
of a fuel (hydrogen, coal, natural gas, gasoline, or diesel) into electrical
energy without combustion. The absence of combustion minimizes the formation
of pollutants and significantly improves electrical power generation efficiency.
Near-zero-emission SOFC systems generate electricity nearly twice as efficiently
as conventional means-reducing CO2 emissions and extending fossil fuel
"Because of its advantages over conventional power generation, SOFC technology
is well-positioned for central and distributed power generation applications,"
said Shultz. "SOFC technology provides energy security by enhancing America's
use of coal, reducing our dependence on imported fuels, and making the
electric grid less vulnerable to the threat of terrorism."
The SECA program was initiated in the fall of 1999 as an alliance between
government, industry, and the scientific community to capitalize on the
advantages of SOFC technology and develop SOFCs that could eventually
be sold in virtually every market needing clean, affordable electric power.
As a result of GE's phase I successes, the Energy Department has approved
their application for the second phase of the SECA effort, making GE the
first SECA industry team to enter phase II. GE will continue pursing the
SOFC technology and manufacturing advances required to ensure a clean,
low-cost, and efficient source of electrical power for the future.
Two Department of Energy national laboratories, the National Energy Technology
Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, spearhead the SECA
program. For more information, visit the SECA website at http://www.seca.doe.gov/.