|The Solid State Energy Conversion Alliance (SECA) was created to accelerate the development of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) and get them to the market as quickly as possible while making them an affordable option for energy generation. The Alliance was formed between three groups: Industrial Teams, Core Technology Program Teams, and Federal Government experts. The Industry Teams design the fuel cells, handling most hardware and market penetration issues. The Core Technology Program teams, comprised of universities, national laboratories, and companies, look into research problems affecting the Industry Teams. The Core Technology Program research is available for all Industry Teams to use, so as to aid accelerated development. The Federal Government facilitates the interaction between the first two groups, manages the SECA program, and most importantly, encourages a broad national perspective to SOFC technology development, beyond company-specific interests.
To accelerate the development of SOFCs, SECA adopted four basic strategies: (1) a “mass customization” approach to resolve the market entry dilemma — initial costs are too high to sell a large number of units, while high volume production is needed to bring the cost down; (2) integration of government, industry, and scientific resources to leverage their respective skills by placing them in appropriate roles; (3) utilization of a common research and development program available to all industrial teams to eliminate redundancy; and (4) intellectual property provisions that enable all industry participants to benefit from breakthroughs by the scientific participants, thereby enhancing technology transfer. These four strategies will enable the SECA program to get SOFCs on the market by 2010 at a cost of $400/kW, nearly a factor of 10 less than the cost at the program’s inception. These fuel cells will be 3-10 kW in size, adaptable for various applications.
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The mass customization approach is
illustrated here in this animation.
The goal of SECA is twofold. First, it is a stand alone program that develops SOFCs for distributed generation applications like auxiliary power units, military power generation, and remote power generation. Secondly, SECA is a large part of the FutureGen program. SECA fuel cells are the building blocks of the FutureGen zero emissions power, which is the ultimate goal of the Clean Coal Power Initiative. SOFCs, the basis of SECA, are operable on multiple fuels, including coal syngas. The “mass customization” approach of SECA allows the modular fuel cell units to be linked together to generate power plant capacity energy. Also, SOFC high efficiency (highest efficiency of various fuel cell types) and the ability to combine with a turbine to create an ultra-high efficiency hybrid, fit directly into FutureGen’s plans for a zero emission high efficiency power plant. SECA is a cornerstone of the distributed generation and FutureGen programs of the DOE.
The SOFC is one of the cleanest, most efficient power-generating technologies now being developed. Benefits of this source of power include:
- Provides electric power with high efficiency and essentially zero regulated emissions
- Operates independent of engine or power grid for distributed generation
- Can be integrated with internal combustion engines to reduce engine emissions
- Can be utilized in Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems for higher efficiency
- Highly compatible with conventional fossil fuels due to simple reforming process
- Solid state device with minimal moving parts
- Achieves high efficiency power generation in a compact package
- Provides fuel flexibility, being operable with synthesis gas from coal, natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, alcohol fuels, and synthesis gas from biomass, and industrial waste
- Provides siting flexibility by compact-modular construction, superior environmental performance, fuel flexibility, and quiet operation
- Strengthens energy security through low-cost domestic energy resource use, siting flexibility, and reducing the need for premium fuels through efficiency gains
- Provides more power choices for residences and businesses
- Positions U.S. industry to export a highly cost-competitive distributed generation commodity in a rapidly growing energy market
For more information on SECA and its programs, please visit the SECA homepage: www.seca.doe.gov.
SECA is an alliance formed between three groups: Industrial Teams, Core Technology Program teams, and Federal Government experts.
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Industial Teams, Core Technology
Program partners, and Government
team to develop low cost SOFC.
The Industrial Teams goal is to develop solid oxide fuel cell system prototypes with a net power output of 3 kW to 10 kW. Teams of industry partners will: 1) propose a SOFC design for a target market; 2) coordinate the process of refining the design elements that will contribute to a high-power-density SOFC that can be mass-produced, with manufacturers and end-users; and 3) communicate their research and development gaps with the Core Technology Program.
Current Industrial Teams are:
- Acumentrics – 10 kW tubular SOFC power generation system
- Cummins Power Generation (with SOFCo) – 10 kW SOFC net generator system for recreational vehicles, commercial vehicles, and telcommunications emergency power
- Delphi Automotive Systems (with Battelle) – 5 kW planar SOFC for distributed generation systems and automotive auxiliary power units
- FuelCell Energy (with Versa Power Systems, Gas Technology Institute, Materials and Systems Research, Inc., University of Utah and Dana) – 3-10 kW planar SOFC power generation system
- General Electric Power Systems – 3 kW to 10 kW SOFC system
- Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation – 7kW to 10 kW SOFC combined heat and power system for residential applications and a 3 kW to 10 kW SOFC auxiliary power unit for transportation applications
Core Technology Program Teams
The Core Technology Program provides the focused applied research and development component of SECA – research that is typically longer term in nature, and thus not the focus of sustained industry investment. It focuses on the R&D efforts of universities, national laboratories, and other research institutions. The Core Technology Program participants perform work subject to what is termed an “exceptional circumstance” to the Bayh-Dole Act; the intellectual property will be offered to all Industry Teams as a non-exclusive license.
The Core Technology Program falls into the following categories:
- Fuel Processing and Reforming – Investigates reforming technologies to make the fuel more efficient and less poisonous to the fuel cell
- Manufacturing – Investigates new manufacturing for fuel cells that is cheaper and on a much larger scale
- Controls and Diagnostics – Optimizes the process control of the fuel cell and balance of plant systems
- Power Electronics – Optimizes the power systems in the fuel cell, including conversion of power from DC to AC
- Modeling and Simulation – Creates precise models of fuel cells to predict future behavior and identify areas of improvement
- Materials – Investigates new materials that will be of higher quality and lower cost of the fuel cell
Federal Government Experts
SECA is run by NETL and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), which are supported by the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and NETL’s Strategic Center for Coal. NETL and PNNL are responsible for SECA program development. NETL is responsible for managing program implementation, including essential coordination between Industry Teams developing fuel cell systems, and universities and scientists addressing core problems to achieve the SECA vision. To the extent practical, NETL, in partnership with PNNL, also seek to enlist other relevant SOFC technology research and development programs across multiple federal agencies in the SECA Program.