DRI Hosts Fuel Cell Conference in Tahoe

by Karen Miller, Program Manager, National Hydrogen Association

The latest advances in technology and applications for all types of fuel cells were discussed on 26-29 July 1998 at the Desert Research Institute’s Fuel Cell Conference held in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, U.S.A. Over 70 participants attended this conference sponsored by the W. Alton Jones Foundation and The Energy Foundation. Highlights of some of the presentations are included below.

Bob Wichert, DRI

The advantages to using fuel cells in locomotives include reduced fuel consumption by up to 50% and reduced emissions by 45%. They have a long operating life and are much quieter than diesel systems, making them particularly good for residential neighborhoods. They are modular and can therefore be “just-right” sized. They have a lower profile as well as a separate “hotel load”/auxiliary power. They also require low maintenance.

Marine Applications
David Haberman, DCH Technology

DCH Technology is forming a Maritime Hydrogen Technology Development Group, to demonstrate a variety of clean energy applications on a maritime platform. (See related story.)

Europe Market Assessment
Mike Walsh, consultant; and Robert Rose, Fuel Cells 2000

A key driver for fuel cells in Europe is the lower allowable sulphur levels in vehicle emissions. Less than 200 grams per kilometer is permissible now, but the limit is expected to drop to 140 g/km by 2008.

The European Union (EU) population is 372 million. The GDP is $8.4 trillion. The new EU FC RD&D Strategy includes a short term focus on applications expected to be competitive by 2005: CHP (combined heat and power), mobile, portable, and remote applications.

India Market Assessment
K. Vijayamohanan, Sojourner; Krishna Sapru-Energy Conversion Devices

India per capita consumption is 170 kilowatt-hours. In the U.S.A., it is 10,000 kWh; in Japan, 5,000 kWh; in Germany, 6,000 kWh; and in Sweden, 12,000 kWh.

Delhi is considered the worst-polluted city in the world, with three million vehicles and emissions of 900 tons per day. Other large cities in India are on the way to reach these levels in the near future.

Fuel cells for rural areas are needed. Eighty percent of the population is considered low income, with only 20% having electricity. Out of this, 17% is used for irrigation, requiring only low power systems (1 kW needed).

India uses a lot of methanol. A carbonate fuel cell might be a good fit. India is considering several fuel cell types, but presently there is no commercially available technology. There are several interested private industries and several R&D institutions engaged in fundamental work.

India also is interested in fuel cells and batteries for two-wheeled power transportation, such as scooters and mopeds.

Mexico Market Assessment
Ulises Cano, Sojourner

In Mexico, electricity cost is about 7-8 cents/kW based on fossil fuels, with a projected annual growth of 4.6% (1993-2003). The power generation capacity growth is 29,204 MW to 44,000 MW.

Utilities in Mexico have been recently deregulated. There are 500,000 kilometers of transmission lines, which results in a loss of energy. There is a rural need for electrification (domestic and agriculture activities), as well as premium power for banks and other centers requiring reliable and quality power. Mexico is interested in facilitating demonstration projects in these areas.

Argentina Market Assessment
Hernan Peretti, Sojourner, Centro Atomico Bariloche

Argentina has an increasing number of vehicles and, therefore, pollution. They do use clean alternatives for stationary power applications, with over 40% coming from hydro power, as well as nuclear. In Buenos Aires, electricity is very expensive. There are many communities without grid power. There is an opportunity for fuel cell technology for agricultural uses in the north and northwest regions, and especially in Patagonia (south) for wind hydrogen distributed power generation.

The World Bank
Jitendra (Jitu) Shah

“Globalized Environmental Facilities” are specialized new technologies for eligible developing countries, including Argentina, China, etc. The partners are UNDP (technical), UNEP (scientific and technical), and The World Bank (investment operations, funds administrator).

The program provides incremental cost financing (portion not justified in the domestic context) to obtain global benefits, and funds projects in response to government requests or funds may go directly to private sector with government approval.

The program elements include:

International Finance Corporation
Vikram Widge

IFC exclusively invests in private sector groups in developing countries. IFC makes money on investments (venture capitalists). IFC’s power department is interested in fuel cells, but they need manufacturing support for project development.

CO2 Trading Options
Robert Rose, Fuel Cells 2000

The basic concept is that the government sets the rules. Environmental goals are met separately. In an open market, credits are established, like a bond. It is run like a consumer product.

A closed market relies on the government and increases confidence. It is less risky than an open market. The World Bank CO2 credit “Mutual Fund” is an example of financial innovation.

A credit system must be created which is meaningful. For example, a $20 credit on a motorized scooter won’t provide much incentive to the purchaser. However, if the manufacturer gets the credit, the incentive is greater, based on volume. These dollars may then be invested into R&D.

©1998. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of the National Hydrogen Association.
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