Pilot project launched: Fuel cell in operation in three-family house in Aachen

A fuel cell for the combined generation of heat and electricity began operating in a household in Aachen today.

Aachen. The project is a pilot project of STAWAG, (Stadtwerke Aachen Aktiengesellschaft – Aachen public utilities), WINGAS GmbH & Co. KG from Kassel and the technology manufacturer HEXIS AG from Winterthur (Switzerland).
“We are very pleased because we found the ideal conditions for our pilot project here. Moreover, the owners of the house are very open to new technology and thus excellent partners for test opera-tions”, STAWAG board member Dr. Christian Becker exclaimed happily at the commissioning of the pilot project. “Initially our job consisted of winning over one of our customers for this pilot project. We had already developed a very good relationship with the Pieren family from our small boiler contracting. Now we are looking after the project hands on which allows us to gain valuable experience with fuel cells in homes. This in turn will enable us to gain a foothold early in this new market for decentralized heat and elec-tricity generation.”
The test household had to fulfill some conditions in order for the installation of the fuel cell system to take place. For example, there had to be enough room and sufficient height in the cellar and no obstacles to delivering the system. The heating requirements of the house with its three apartments – grandmother, mother and son all live on different floors under one roof – also met the conditions.
WINGAS Managing Director Rüdiger Mackenthun is also impressed by the new fuel cell system, which will generate heat and a proportion of the electricity for the whole house during the two-year test phase. “The fuel cell as a small-scale power plant is a technology of the future which is expected to play an important role in the energy supply in years to come. What is remarkable about this fuel cell is that it is powered with natural gas and has a high efficiency level compared to separate electricity and heat generation. For us this creates new potential for gas sales, but at the same time we are taking responsibility for the important goal of climate protection. That is why we are focusing on this innovative technology early.”
The manufacturers of the plant from Switzerland will be examining some key questions in the next two years such as, “How can fuel cell technology be integrated into regular households? How can we ensure its reliable and practical application? These are the questions we will be addressing,” Volker Nerlich from HEXIS explained. To this end, every 15 minutes data will be transmitted from the system via broadband to Winterthur where it will then be evaluated. The system can even be remote controlled via this link. At the same time, onsite service is also guaranteed.
HEXIS AG has been developing fuel cell technology for some years now and has incorporated the experience it has gained into the design of the current model. When the fuel cell heating devices go into series production, they are intended to replace conven-tional boilers in homes and, as well as providing the entire heat supply for the building, will generate electricity at a low cost. The peak electrical output of the appliance is about one kilowatt.
The fuel cell converts natural gas into a hydrogen-rich gas which is then used to generate heat and electricity in an electro-chemical process. This technology emits 20 to 30 percent less CO2 com-pared to traditional electricity generation from a condensing power plant and separate heat generation process. The small-scale power plant is comparable to a normal boiler in terms of its dimen-sions. Its high efficiency factor ensures that natural gas is used very sparingly.

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