Fuel Cell Power Plant Systems

  • Marvin Warshay


Fuel cell power plant systems operating on coal-derived fuels have the potential to satisfy a broad range of applications. The intent of this chapter is to place this fuel cell system potential in perspective. First, discussions of fuel cell history and basic concepts are presented to set the stage for a general understanding of why much effort has been expended on fuel cell research and development. However, the fuel cell’s initial success in the space effort led to an overselling of its commercial potential and an underselling of the efforts that would be required to enable fuel cells to fulfill this potential.

Second, the results of a series of systems studies in which the projected performance and cost of low- and/or high-temperature fuel cell power plant systems are reviewed. The results indicate that the low-temperature phosphoric acid fuel cell system and the high-temperature molten carbonate (M.C.) and solid oxide (S.O.) fuel cell systems hold the greatest promise of meeting the commercial terrestrial needs. Potential attractive applications cover both utility and nonutility systems where they can function either simply as suppliers of electricity or as suppliers of both electrical and thermal energy.

High-temperature M.C. and S.O. fuel cell power plants could be an attractive generating option due to their inherent efficiency (due in part to utilization of high-quality waste heat) coupled with their benign environmental characteristics. In particular, M.C. and S.O. power plants are being considered for application as baseload central station generators integrated with coal gasifiers and a bottoming cycle. In addition, the M.C. system is being developed as an intermediate duty, dispersed generator. Because of their capacity for generating high-quality waste heat, the M.C. and S.O. systems are also attractive candidates for industrial cogeneration.

The parametric sensitivity analyses conducted in the systems studies, which are discussed in this review, have helped to establish the emphasis of future fuel cell system development efforts. Reliability, performance, and cost are the general requirements that every fuel cell power plant system must satisfy. This is considered in more specific terms in a discussion of technical and commercial readiness of each of the systems. Such considerations as increased tolerance to coal gas impurities, particularly sulfur and halides, sustained fuel cell stack performance requirements and developing configurations that lend themselves to low-cost manufacturing are among the key development challenges.


Fuel Cell Solid Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell System Electric Power Research Institute Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marvin Warshay
    • 1
  1. 1.National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationLewis Research CenterClevelandUSA

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