New fuel cell pilot project by WINGAS and STAWAG in Aachen should demonstrate potential for commercial applications
Aachen/Kassel. In light of Germany’s ambitious climate goals and the high cost saving potential, efficient heating technology is also becoming increasingly important in the commercial sector. As part of a new pilot project, Kassel-based gas supplier WINGAS and Stadtwerke Aachen (STAWAG) have therefore now put a highly efficient fuel cell into operation in the basement of the Institute for Industrial Aerodynamics (IFI) in Aachen. The fuel cell was integrated into an existing heating system and runs continuously. The combined heat and power generation plant will generate up to 13,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity and around 5,000 kWh of heat per year. STAWAG and WINGAS had previously worked together in 2014 in a shared field test for the private customer segment, and had good experience with fuel cell technology. The new model project now launched in Aachen will run for two years.
Through its “Fuel Cell Partner Bonus Plus” plan, WINGAS is currently assisting up to ten investors in total via its municipal utility customers. Under the terms of the scheme, investors can receive up to €10,000 net per device if they purchase a fuel cell with an output of up to 3 kW. STAWAG benefits from this program with the opportunity to implement this kind of model project. “Many field tests have convinced us of the benefits of this highly efficient technology,” explains Detlef Mirsch, Head of Technical Services at WINGAS GmbH. “We want to further penetrate this market with this program while giving our customers the opportunity to test this innovative technology and ideally gain their own positive experience. Municipal utilities in particular play an important multiplier function in this endeavor,” says Mirsch. The company's bonus program supplements the KfW-433 program “Energy-efficient Construction and Renewal,” which has been running since August 1, 2016 and supports fuel cells with subsidies of €5,700 plus €450 per 100 watts.
“Our results so far prove show that the technology is reliable and extremely efficient. With this latest field test we now want to gain more experience in the commercial sector and determine whether a contracting product in this sector would be worth it in the future – both for STAWAG and for commercial customers,” explains Ralf HInrichsmeyer, project manager at Aachen's municipal utility company. “With their high electrical efficiency of around 60 percent, fuel cells will play a central role in future both in domestic commercial energy supply.” On the one hand, the innovative technology is ideal for meeting the requirements of the Energy Saving Ordinance for new buildings, while on the other, the system technology is often particularly interesting when existing older systems need to be replaced.
The recently commissioned BlueGen fuel cell from SolidPower delivers 1.5 kWh of electrical and 0.62 kWh of thermal power. The heat is fed into the heating and hot water system and is sufficient to meet the entire hot water requirements of the IFI Institute. Any surplus heat is used for heating. The generated electricity is used in full by the Institute and covers the base load of its IT department. The IFI Institute is a longstanding STAWAG customer, and its existing system configuration proved ideal for adding the fuel cell. The IFI Institute will continue to operate the fuel cell once the field test is over.