Monday, November 14, 2011

Is $56,000 Too Much to Pay for a 5 kW Home Fuel Cell?

Lake Oswego Review Clear Edge Power

The Clear Edge Power 5 kW residential fuel cell runs on methane, and sells for $56,000. It is estimated that owners will pay roughly 9 cents per kWh in some states, when all incentives and subsidies are taken into account. In many other states, of course, the owner will pay more.
ClearEdge has sold 120 CE5s since introducing its first fuel cell in April 2010 and has back orders to sell another 1,063. The company raised an impressive $73.5 million in venture capital in August to help it expand into Europe and Asia.

The CE5 produces electricity on site from piped-in natural gas, with up to 40 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than electricity produced at massive utility gas-fired power plants. When state and federal subsidies are factored in, the long-term cost of the electricity is as low as 9 cents per kilowatt hour in some states, Ford says. That’s half the price charged by some California utilities, where prices are much higher than in the Northwest. PGE’s typical residential rate is about 11 cents a kilowatt hour.

Local buyers include a McDonald’s Restaurant in Jantzen Beach, a Hillsboro fire station, the Sylvania campus of Portland Community College and PGE. Bigger demand is coming from Palm Springs and San Diego, where electricity prices are high, as well as overseas.

Ford, a former defense industry executive at Lockheed Martin Corp., took the reins of the 8-year-old company in 2008, when ClearEdge had 20 employees. Now it has 200 employees in Hillsboro plus roughly 25 elsewhere. And it’s poised for more growth.

Ford predicts the company will become profitable in two months.

Within a few years, he says, ClearEdge could produce 10,000 fuel cells a year at its Hillsboro plant and hit $750 million a year in sales. That would require about 1,500 employees at the headquarters and adjacent assembly plant, he says.

...In mid-November, Ford says ClearEdge will release a family of new fuel cells to complement its 5-kilowatt cell, which produces enough electricity to power four or five typical Portland homes. ClearEdge expects to introduce 10-kilowatt, 15-kilowatt, 20-kilowatt and 25-kilowatt models, Ford says.

In addition, the company will release a direct-current version for the telecommunications market and a power unit for data centers. _LakeOswegoReview

The ideal home fuel cell would run on fuel that could be stored locally in an underground tank. Besides home power, it should also supply home space heating and hot water. That might require a separate heat storage unit -- molten salt, graphite, etc. And as long as you are digging a hole for a large storage tank, you should also dig deep trenches for geothermal heat exchange for both heating and cooling purposes.

The unit pictured above provides heat, but to integrate the heat into your home system would presumably require additional engineering.

The most valuable feature of the Clear Edge unit is independence from the power grid. But as featured, you would still be dependent on the natural gas supplier. Alternatively, Clear Edge has been said to be able to use propane in its fuel cells, which is much easier to store (in liquid form) in quantity at home than methane. Propane fuel cells are catching on with the US military.



Blogger Hell_Is_Like_Newark said...

For traditional Cogen (reciprocating engines and micro-turbines) maintenance costs are estimated up to $0.015 per kWh generated. Plus, you have additional $$$ for overhauls every three to five years.

So what are the maintenance and overhaul costs for this fuel cell system? Without that information, a real return on investment analysis cannot be done.

10:46 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

Good point. Fuel cell systems will have to prove themselves reliable before most people can afford to invest.

9:42 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts