German report highlights benefits of small fuel cellsNovember 1, 2012
Fuel cells may be a viable option for German homes
Fuel cells are most often used as industrial power systems or as an energy source for new vehicles. Rarely are the energy systems given attention for the prospects as a residential power source. A new report from the German Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg suggests that fuel cells could be far more useful as residential energy systems than they are given credit for. Part of the potential of these energy systems is tied to the fact that they can produce both electricity and heat.
Report indicates promise of CHP energy systems
The report, which was commissioned by the Initiative Brennstoffzelle and the German Engineering Federation, makes note of combined heat and power (CHP) energy systems. These are typically small scale fuel cells that produce electricity in the kilowatt range rather than their larger cousins that produce electricity in the megawatt range. Like larger fuel cells, CHP energy systems generate electrical power through chemical reactions that also produce a significant amount of heat. The report suggests that these energy systems can replace the traditional boilers that are used in many German homes to heat water.
CHP fuel cells could replace traditional boilers in millions of homes
The report suggests that CHP energy systems could be adequate replacements for boilers that are more than 24 years old, which are found in approximately 3 million German homes. The fuel cells might also be a promising auxiliary system in 17 million homes throughout the country. The report notes that small scale fuel cells would complement modern heating systems quite well and could help reduce the costs associated with keeping a home warm in colder seasons of the year.
Widespread adoption may not be an overtly expensive endeavor
According to the report, widespread adoption of fuel cell CHP energy systems could reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the country by as much as 40%. Researchers note that fuel cells show a great deal more promise when compared to other technologies that could be used for the same purpose. Because the report focuses on small scale fuel cells, the costs associated with the adoption of these CHP energy systems is much lower than what would be associated with much larger fuel cell systems.