Power Engineering International published and article about the ene.field project:

 Mega trial opens Europe to micro-CHP

An ambitious initiative across 12 European nations, involving utilities, manufacturers and research institutions, aims to test the potential for fuel cell micro-CHP in the EU residential market, reports Robert Stokes

Although Elcore GmbH, a German maker of fuel cell micro-CHP units, only has a few of its products in homes in its domestic market, it already has high hopes of selling plenty on a fully commercial basis from later this year before spreading its wings into other European markets.

The Munich-based firm’s optimism rests largely on being among nine suppliers picked in the €53 million ($71 million) ‘European-wide Field Trials for Residential Fuel Cell micro-CHP’ project (Ene.field).

Under the initiative, European Union (EU) utility companies, manufacturers, research institutes and universities will collaborate on field trials across 12 EU Member States of fuel cell micro-CHP units ranging from 0.3 kWe to 5 kWe, and powered with natural gas and, subsequently, hydrogen.

By September 2014, 960 units are due to be installed, with each running as a demonstrator project for three years, during which lifecycle costs and barriers to commercialisation will be assessed.

For fuel cell micro-CHP, the project has come at a good time. Currently, no units are being sold on a fully commercial basis in Europe. Full launch targets have been pushed back and investor confidence is low.

“Many people that we speak to in the industry feel that it’s now or never for the technology,” says Scott Dwyer, micro-CHP research manager at Delta-ee, analysts based in Edinburgh, UK.

“But with things like Ene.field and other national field trial projects – such as CALLUX and NIP, both in Germany, and one in Denmark – we think it’s justifiable to expect a wave of product launches in the next two to four years.”

A range of technologies is to be scrutinised under Ene.field: high-temperature (HT) solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC); low-temperature (LT) SOFC; HT proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFC); and LT PEMFC.

The units will be integrated into various European heating systems – both floor standing and wall hung – either in the home or in separate installation cabinets.

The goals are to demonstrate market potential and segmentation; gauge the manufacturing and operating costs, and the environmental benefits of fuel cell micro-CHP; develop product specifications and harmonised codes and standards; ready a supply chain for commercial deployment of fuel cell micro-CHP in the 12 participating Member States; and provide evidence to speed up policy support from governments and broader adoption by new and existing sales channels such as through utilities.

The European Commission’s Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) is committing nearly €26 million to Ene.field over 60 months from 1 September 2012, as one of the Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIs) under the EU’s outgoing 7th Framework Programme for funding research and development.

The European Commission’s Directorate General for Energy (DG Energy) expects this spend to leverage at least the same commitment from participating industries, half of whom are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), such as Elcore.

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Picture: Number of fuel cell micro-CHP units planned for Ene.Field trials
Credit: COGEN Europe

Source: Power Engineering International