Kassel. Stationary fuel cells in the heating market have big potential. “Particularly in the small power segment, the diversity of the devices has increased immensely,” explains Detlef Mirsch, Head of Technical Services at WINGAS. The workshop “Step on the gas for fuel cells“, which WINGAS invited municipal utility customers to attend in Kassel, explained the current state of these micro-CHP units as well as the legal framework, the technical developments of fuel cells as well as their practical use in selected flagship projects.
Dr. Rolf Albus, from the Gas and Heating Institute in Essen, reported on his experiences with the Bottrop model project “Innovation City”, which has been running for about one and a half years. In this project, 100 CHP series devices, including twelve fuel cells, were installed in single and two-family homes across an entire neighbourhood. “There is great acceptance among end consumers for this innovative and environmentally friendly technology. The devices also win support because they are readily available on the market and allow great reductions in CO2 emissions,” Albus emphasizes.
Evaluation difficulties because of the EnEV
Professor Bert Oschatz from the Institute for Building Services Engineering outlined the problems relating to the legal framework. In his presentation he underlined that fuel cells could only be adequately evaluated with the current energy saving regulation (EnEV) indirectly and thus with great difficulties. This was making it difficult for the technology to enter the market, especially in the new building sector, the expert said. Oschatz demonstrated a temporary solution, but says that action urgently needs to be taken as far as the forthcoming energy saving regulation is concerned.
Various fuel cell manufacturers, some of whom already offered marketable devices, also spoke at the workshop. Prominent representatives of the industry, including Vaillant, Ceramic Fuel Cells, SenerTec, Elcore, Viessmann und Buderus, presented their products for the small power segment up to 1.5 kWel. The company FuelCell Energy Solutions also showcased solutions in a much larger power segment, thus rounding off the market for this technology.
Higher quantities necessary for cost reductions
The event participants agreed that the costs for a fuel cell are currently the biggest obstacle to broad market penetration. A cut in prices could be reached first and foremost with higher quantities, Mirsch said: “Municipal utility companies could play an important role here in setting an example and helping to spread and establish this highly efficient natural gas technology”.