Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fuel Cell Technology

Green Fuel Gone Residential

Emergence of a quite, efficient, and clean fuel


FuelCellElectricityFuel cell technology is an emerging form of clean energy that seems to be within reach for consumers. The main drawback is in the costly expenses associated with the units, in comparison to conventional fossil fuel systems. Fuel cell systems have proven to produce at least twice as much energy and little to no pollution, unlike their ‘dirty fuel’ counterparts. In 2003, President Bush announced a program called the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative (HFI) which aims to develop hydrogen-based fuel cell technologies. The initiative is supported by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and the Advanced Energy Initiative of 2006, both organizations hope to make fuel cell technology practical in vehicles and cost-effective for the average citizen.


The by-products of fuel cell technology are nothing but water and heat. When compared to conventional fossil fuels, this clean alternative sounds too good to be true. However, the use of fuel cell technologies is only continuing to grow in numbers as hush-hush companies strive to develop the perfect fuel cell for the modern day world.


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Benefits of fuel cell technology




  • The systems are deemed to be environmentally friendly, since they operate with higher efficiency. Conventional fuel systems are only 30% efficient.




  • Fuel cells may run on ecologically derived substances like ethanol and methanol.




  • Their emissions are water and heat. This is a true clean-fuel technology.




  • Such technology is 3 times more efficient that combustion systems.



General cons




  • Maintaining a fuel cell can be very costly. The main downfall is associated with high expenses, currently this technology is not a reasonable financial choice for many commercial industries.




  • Its availability to the public is limited, mostly because of the high costs and little interest.




  • Companies are still striving to develop the most effective system, perhaps one that can be incorporated to vehicles; thus, most are not interested in residential sales.


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Why is fuel cell technology unpopular?



Unlike wind and solar technology, fuel cells do not receive a whole lot of recognition by the media or government incentives. Many believe that user-friendly fuel cells are nearly 10 – 15 years away, thus investing in them now may prove to be just a waste of money. If the technology becomes more efficient and preferred by consumers and producers, then the government will most definitely begin to provide various incentives. However, experts believe that it will take time for this clean-fuel to become widely available, thus incentives have not yet been set.


Many people have not heard of fuel cell technology because it’s simply so hush-hush. Most companies’ products are still in the development stages. If you are interested in receiving progress notices you may register with your desired organization or company online.


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A company that’s ‘Delivering smart energy today’


FuelCellClearEdge


The California/Oregon company prides itself as a pioneer and leader of ultra-clean and efficient fuel cell energy systems for small businesses and households. The company states that fuel cell technology is more efficient than wind and solar power, and aims to make it widely available to the masses. ClearEdge Power promises their customers a ‘remedy for painfully high utility bills,’ while encouraging folks to take advantage of the utility rebates and government appointed incentives. In addition, the company strives to educate consumers on the benefits that fuel cell technology has on the environment and its reduced number of carbon emissions.


CEO, Russell Ford, and ClearEdge Power have applauded Congressman Wu and Congresswoman Bono-Mack for taking action to increase fuel cell technologies and incentives. Regarding the 2009 residential Fuel Cell Tax Parity Act, Congressman Wu said,


“As we try to ensure that America has clean and renewable sources of energy, we need to establish policies to help individuals install these technologies and support industries that are already ahead of the curve. This bill will ensure that families have the opportunity to access the same tax credits that commercial developers get for using renewable power.”


FuelCellGirlThe company has already started marketing and selling the ClearEdge 5 (CE5) system, that cost as low as 6.0¢ per kWh. The CE5 product is a good option for an on-site clean energy system as it converts natural gas to electricity and heat. The product consists of three core components and the system’s hydrogen is processed through a Fuel Cell Stack, thus creating direct current (DC) power which the unit converts into the alternative current (AC). It is estimated that the CE5 system generates 5kW annually, which is optimal for larger home estimated at 4,000 square feet.


The CE5 system promises many benefits. A major environmental is that this technology uses fewer natural resources to meet your energy needs, and can be up to 90% efficient. The company promises continual performance monitoring for the 20 year lifespan of the CE5 system. The Clear Edge 5 product is truly a smart energy system that provides reliable alternative energy, low energy costs, and reduced CO2 emissions.


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Other companies competing to meet the fuel cell goal


FuelCellBloomenergy


New York Times reported that Bloom Energy is one of the companies closest to revealing their product. The company ran a successful two year study at the University of Tennessee, where they discovered that their Bloom box ran twice as efficient as a natural-gas boiler, while producing 60% less carbon emissions. It is reported that their product can also be modified to run on natural-gas and liquid fuels, like ethanol. In regards to the company’s product development, they have not been forthcoming with any details.


Bloom’s CEO K.R. Sridhar and Kleiner stated that the company plans on selling and leasing its 5 KW Bloom boxes, in addition to entering power-purchasing agreements through an unnamed wholly owned subsidiary. Six years and nearly $250 million later, Bloom is quickly proving to be a company preparing for commercial sales and worldwide recognition.


FuelCellSFC


SFC is a German company which strives to be a leader in motor vehicle incorporated fuel cells. Unlike other companies that are still in the developmental phases of their projects, SFC has been manufacturing and selling various units since 2000. In addition, the company has 25 patents and patent applications covering the very aspects of clean energy technology.


The company is a true pioneer in direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) technology. The miniaturized DMFC system functions with exchangeable fuel cartridges which contain 100% methanol. Currently their products are sold for recreational vehicles (RV’s), sailing boats, remote industrial applications, and consumer electronics. The company goal is to establish its units throughout various markets from healthcare to households to leisure resorts.


FuelCellFuelCellEnergy



FuelCell Energy manufactures clean energy stationary fuel cell power plants which are estimated to generate electricity with twice the efficiency of fossil fuel plants. The company which is headquartered in Connecticut, manages and monitors over 50 power plant locations throughout the world. The company manufactures stationary fuel cell power plants for commercial, industrial, government, and utility applications.


The products associated with this company qualify under several environmental certifications, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Renewable Energy Standards (RES). In addition, they exceed the standards set of fuel cell systems by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).


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Learn More



HowStuffWorks.com presents: How Fuel Cell Energy Works



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