In the UK the Government plans to supply low carbon energy with nuclear power, which will require a long term subsidy. The first generator planned for Hinkley is estimated to cost £18bn and will be followed by several other expensive reactors. The Government is also seeking to reduce CO2 emissions by improving energy efficiency in buildings. The UK’s housing stock is among the least efficient in Europe according to a recent report by the National Audit Office entitled Green Deal And Energy Company Obligation. The Government’s ‘Green Deal’ to improve energy efficiency has not been value for money it says. The report states that over half a million homes were supplied with new boilers, but Fuel Cell Power suggests that, given backing for innovative SMEs, boilers could be replaced by highly efficient fuel cells with heat pumps where needed. The Government is also faced with the problem of air pollution which is responsible for 40,000 deaths per annum in the UK alone, according to a report by the Royal College of Physicians. Fuel cells could resolve all these issues, with efficiency up to 90% and zero emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
Engineers at the Cygnus Atratus (Black Swan) Group have been working for the past twenty years to develop cost effective alkaline fuel cells which will enable the generation of electricity and heat with negative carbon dioxide emissions. A gasified anaerobic digester system (GAD™ ) produces energy from municipal, agricultural or forestry waste. The ACE™ fuel cells generate electricity with efficiency over 60% and in combined heat and power mode efficiency is up to 90%.
The fuel cells start quickly, operate at around 80°C, have low maintenance and are 95% recyclable. The technology is based upon the original work of the British engineer Dr Francis Bacon who developed the first practical working fuel cell for the Apollo space programme. This technology has had no backing in the UK but engineers have reduced materials costs and can now make fuel cells commercially available.
CARBON CAPTURE AND RECYCLING (CCR)
The system can be operated on site as the electrochemical process has little noise or vibration and there are zero emissions of NOx, SOx and particulates. Usable by-products are heat, methane, syngas, sterile liquid fertiliser, bio-char, nitrogen, pure carbon dioxide and sterile ash. The only emission is potable water. The electrochemical process separates the carbon dioxide which can then be utilised locally. Carbon capture and recycling (CCR) is more efficient than carbon capture and storage (CCS).
The fuel cells can be manufactured locally, using commonly found parts and low cost materials, with advanced processes including 3D mass production. The system can be utilised around the world with telematics managing digestate handling, transport, ph stability, temperature, product gas management, humidity control, gas transmission, reformation control and monitoring, fuel cell operation, water control, fertiliser and terra preta management. Progress is being made with a low cost electric swing absorber which would enable six times more energy to be obtained from organic waste than is at present being obtained by combustion. The fuel cells can also balance the intermittent loads from wind and solar energy, using hydrogen obtained at times of low demand.
BELOW AVERAGE PRICE
The GAD™ and ACE™ system will be offered at below world average per kWh pricing. Fuel cells will enable developing countries to improve their economies and indigenous people could have a better quality of life, while eliminating carbon dioxide and other polluting emissions. The availability of an enhanced income from local agriculture or forestry could discourage further deforestation. Cygnus Atratus will ensure that a percentage of the income is devoted to the local community, which could help to improve education and further conservation measures.
ETHANOL FUELLED ELECTRIC VEHICLES
For transport applications, two fuel cell taxis and a boat have been demonstrated and the technology is now ready for evaluation in another vehicle powered by ethanol, prior to commercialisation. Most countries have an established liquid refuelling infrastructure and ethanol can be obtained from indigenous sources.
The plan is to install ethanol fuel cell stacks in the taxi and drive it from Southern France to London. Following the first tour, the taxi will be taken to the USA and driven right across the US, from New York to San Francisco. Then on to China, from Hong Kong to Beijing. It is anticipated that this will provide significant publicity and serve as a powerful tool to advance the technology and see it applied to transport applications.