Friday, August 27, 2010

Using biogas to fuel a fuel cell



Fuel flexibility is one of the greatest advantages of fuel cells, one that the industry fails to trumpet as much as it should. We need more demonstrations of this in the field, especially commercial installations. The Fuel Cell Energy power plant slated for installation at an egg farm in California, USA, is one such example.

Second, this project is a good example of the benefits. Thanks to the fuel cell power plant and an anaerobic digester, the ranch will close, or nearly close, three distinct loops:

Electricity: Normally, Olivera Egg Ranch would draw energy from the grid. Now, almost all the ranch’s electricity will be generated onsite using inputs (waste from a poultry operation) that are also generated onsite. No carbon miles, no long-distance transmission losses and no risk of environmental damage from a truck spilling waste in a road accident.

Waste: Currently, the egg farm uses a solid waste lagoon for waste disposal. With this project, the waste from the poultry operation will fuel the fuel cell generator which will provide the energy for the farm to keep running and thus allowing the birds to continue to generate waste.

Heat: Extra heat from the fuel cell will serve the anaerobic digester (which uses heat and microorganisms to turn solid waste into methane). This might not account for all the heat the digester requires, but will account for some. The methane from the digester will fuel the fuel cell power plant.

Olivera Egg Ranch can reasonably expect that it will reduce its energy bills, as it plans to generate most of its required electricity onsite and the system is scalable as the poultry operation grows. The system is supposed to be up and running by mid-2011.

Ref: Fuel Cell Today Fortnightly Newsletter - 26 August 2010

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