Fuel Cell Plant Installed in London Office Block

The ultra-clean and efficient power-generating fuel cell system is being introduced to London, providing the city with clean-air and at the same time, supporting its carbon reduction targets.
Published: Thu 13 Dec 2012

The famous 20 Fenchurch ‘Walkie Talkie’ office tower block in London will be energy efficient, thanks to the installation of a stationary fuel cell power plant. FuelCell Energy Solutions (FCES) will manufacture the plant, as well as operate and maintain it from a Europe-based 24 hour operations center. FCES is a joint venture between Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy Inc and the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden, Germany. FCES is the sales, manufacturing and service business for the European Served Area for FuelCell Energy, with administrative offices in Dresden and manufacturing operations in Ottobrunn, near Munich. Edinburgh-based Logan Energy, a leading integrator of stationary fuel cell systems, will design, integrate and maintain the system operations. The firm has already installed a fuel cell power plant in Transport for London’s Palestra Building in 2009.

The Canary Wharf Group and Land Securities is developing the 38 storey, 690,000 square foot office building which, due to its unique design, allows for more public space at street level. The building utilizes solar shading and window glazing which conserves energy and the fuel cell power plant generates both electricity and heat with “virtually no emissions”, explains Canary Wharf Contractors executive director Paul Mutti. The fuel cell power plant will be installed inside the office building. Due to its quiet and clean operation, the plant is well suited for populated areas.

The fuel cell power plant is essential for the building on both an economic and sustainability level, explains H&V News.

The plant will provide electricity and heat in a combined heat and power (CHP) configuration with heating provided to an absorption chiller for cooling and lower temperature heat for facility and hot water heating. Generating both electricity and heat from the same unit of fuel decreases fuel costs and enhances efficiency. Fuel cells can achieve up to 90% efficiency when the heat is utilized in a CHP configuration, explains Renewable Energy Focus.The plant will use natural gas for the fuel source. Kurt Goddard, Vice President Investor Relations at FuelCell Energy Inc explained to Engerati that their power plants are fuel flexible, capable of using natural gas, on-site biogas, directed biogas, propane and other fuels. He adds, “Our plants are easy to site in populated areas due to virtual lack of emissions, quiet operation, and modest space needs. This is sometimes a challenge for other renewable technologies depending on the location.”

The fuel cell provides an electrical output of 300 kW, enough to power almost 800 average sized UK homes. The cell has a thermal output of over 300kW.

The fuel cell power plant will be the first installation of its type in the City of London’s Square Mile. The DFC300-EU molten carbonate fuel cell will be installed next year.  

The fuel cell power plant supports the targets put in place by the Mayor of London which is to supply 25% of London’s energy from decentralized sources and reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2025.

Engerati asked Mr Goddard a few questions to gain more insight in to the fuel cell energy industry: Engerati: How clean exactly is the energy generated by the fuel cell?

Mr Goddard: Very clean – fuel cells utilize an electrochemical process to efficiently generate electricity and heat. Due to the absence of combustion, virtually no pollutants are released. Additionally, the combined heat and power configuration provides additional benefits as the same unit of fuel provides both electricity and heat. This means reliance on a boiler for heating can be reduced or even eliminated, reducing costs and stopping a source of pollutants.

Engerati: Why are more buildings not powered this way?

Mr Goddard: It is a disruptive technology that is taking time for adoption and the existing electric grid is an easy default, which is a pay-as-you go rather than requiring an up-front capital investment. We can address the capital issue by structuring with a project investor that actually owns the power plant and sells the electricity and heat under a long term power purchase agreement. We have many projects structured in this manner, though Fenchurch is not structured this way.

Engerati: What obstacles does the fuel cell market face?

Mr Goddard: Cost is the primary barrier. Costs will come down with volume and we have a very clear path for reducing costs to be below the electric grid.

Engerati: What link does it have to the grid?                    

Depending what the customer wants, the fuel cell power plant can be grid-independent or connected to the grid. Fuel cells provide a continuous base load power. We have customers who utilize both intermittent power generation (solar and wind) along with fuel cells. Fuel cells provide our customers with greater control over their power supply and do this in an environmentally friendly manner-both aspects are important to many power users.

Engerati: What is the shelf life of such a system? What are the operational costs?

The power plant can operate 20 to 25 years with scheduled fuel cell stack replacements at 5 year intervals. We operate and maintain the plants for our customers under long-term service agreements, some of which have terms of 20 years.

FuelCell Energy has just recently received an order for 121.8 MW of fuel cell kits and services from its South Korean partner, POSCO Energy. This is the fuel cell industry’s biggest order to date.

Sources

H&V News-Fuel cell power plant for 20 Fenchurch tower block

Renewable Energy Focus-FuelCell Energy wins order to install fuel cell power plant for landmark London office tower