WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected two projects for the Department's Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) Program portfolio. The projects, focused on enhancing energy security through zero-emission applications, will be led by UTC Power, a United Technologies Corporation, in partnership with Delphi Corporation, and Rolls-Royce Fuel Cell Systems (U.S.) Inc. The Rolls-Royce project will include work at Ohio's Stark State College Fuel Cell Prototyping Center, which is also supported through a National Science Foundation grant.
From an environmental perspective, fuel cells are one of the most attractive technologies for generating electricity. Solid oxide fuel cells operate by separating and transferring oxygen across a solid electrolyte membrane, where it reacts with a fuel - such as synthesis gas derived from coal, biofuels or natural gas - to produce steam and carbon dioxide (CO2). Condensing the steam results in a pure stream of CO2 gas; this can be readily captured for storage or other use in a central location. This feature, coupled with the well-known fact that fuel cell efficiency does not depend on high temperatures, results in near-zero emissions (e.g., NOx < 0.5ppm) at equivalent or reduced cost-of-electricity compared to today's power generation.
To realize the intrinsic advantages of solid oxide fuel cells requires achievement of SECA's cost reduction goals. The SECA project portfolio, including the Rolls-Royce and UTC Power projects, will research, develop and demonstrate fuel cell technologies that can support power generation systems as large as several hundred megawatts capacity. Key system requirements to be achieved include:
- Cost of $100 per kilowatt (2002) for the minimum 40,000 hour fuel cell stack.
- Cost of $400 per kilowatt (2002) for the integrated fuel cell power block.
- Maintaining high power density in the large cells necessary for economic manufacturing.
SECA was established by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy in 2000 to research and develop low-cost, modular, fuel-flexible solid oxide fuel cell systems by 2010. In early 2005, the SECA program was accelerated to deliver megawatt-class fuel cell systems in response to the emerging national need for low-cost carbon capture technologies along with the more efficient and cost- effective use of fuels abundantly available in the United States and the need to address reduced water usage in power plants.
The Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) manages the SECA program and its projects.