FUEL CELLS FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

Octopus Investments has announced an investment of £2 million into Diverse Energy Limited, a company that builds an emission-free, low-cost advanced PEM fuel cell power solution for mobile phone communication towers in rural areas of developing countries.  Diverse Energy has developed the PowerCube™, a stand-alone replacement for the polluting diesel generators currently used as remote power supplies for mobile phone towers where electricity is not available. It delivers power in a highly efficient way with low fuel and maintenance costs, thus offering a 25% reduction in total cost of ownership with a two-year payback.  The Company has designed an innovative, proprietary technology that allows the PowerCube to utilise ammonia as a fuel. When compared to traditional diesel generators, the PowerCube provides an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 74% reduction in energy use, and eliminates both local noise and air pollution.  The investment provided by Octopus will enable the company to be able to complete the assembly plant and expand rapidly to fulfil orders and serve its large export market.

Entering the growing low carbon energy market

Luke Hakes, from Octopus, commented:  “Diverse Energy is entering an exciting development phase and we recognise the Company’s unique position in the growing green energy market.  There has been a considerable amount of hype about fuel cells for off grid applications, but to date we have found no other company which has combined the necessary technology, fuel infrastructure and service agreements to take this proposition to market.  As we partner with Diverse Energy to provide more than just funding, we look forward to watching this pioneering company build into a market leader.”

“This is a monumental day for the Diverse Energy Team” said Dr Alastair Livesey, Managing Director of Diverse Energy.  “Through hard work and with the help of numerous partners, including the Technology Strategy Board, Carbon Trust, Afrox, Centre for Process Innovation Teesside, Leading Light, Balton CP, Artemis Power, Nedstack and the University of Michigan MAP program, we are realizing the vision of our founders and early investors.  This investment will enable Diverse Energy to complete the transition from development to a fully commercial manufacturing organization.  In Octopus we have found a partner who is not only funding us but also helping us realize an ambitious roll-out programme.”

The company was launched in 2007 by a team of energy and telecommunications professionals with over twelve years experience in the development of fuel cell technology and with collectively over 100 years of energy industry experience.  Diverse Energy is headquartered in West Sussex, UK, but operates internationally. Its management team consists of a highly qualified, mix of sustainable energy scientists, engineers, management specialists, investors and automotive engineers from a former Le Mans F1 GT pit crew. Their mission is to develop clean, low cost, secure power plants to replace diesel generators in selected applications.  During 2009, the company launched its flagship product, PowerCube™, which now uses 8th generation fuel cell technology.  Highlights of Diverse Energy’s performance include: the first fuel cell powered exhibition stand in 2001, powering the first fuel cell house in the UK in 2004 and powering the first fuel cell house in India in 2007. Diverse Energy is part funded by the UK Carbon Trust and the Technology Strategy Board and has won numerous awards, including the UK Government iAward for innovation in 2009 and the Energy Institute Award for innovation in 2010.

Fuel Cell Powercubes for Africa

Diverse Energy has shipped to Africa the first fuel cell ‘Powercube’ a fully commercial power plant fuelled by anhydrous ammonia.  The Powercube will provide electricity for off-grid cell phone towers.

This is the first of seventeen PowerCubes to be assembled and deployed under a UK Technology Strategy Board (TSB) ‘Ammonia for Power’ grant program.  At the Diverse Energy facility in West Sussex, TSB Project officer, Christine Foster, named the PowerCube ‘Ainra’ meaning ‘Lasting Power’ in Swahili.  One PowerCube is being used for local testing and the remaining fifteen will be shipped to Africa to prove the viability of the system in all regional climates and familiarize mobile network operators with the technology.

Ammonia infrastructure study

A “Multidisciplinary Action Project” (MAP) team from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan carried out a detailed ammonia infrastructure study for Diverse Energy and Afrox Oxygen Limited (Afrox), a member of the Linde Group and the largest industrial gases and welding company in sub-Saharan Africa.

The study verified and documented that the existing Afrox ammonia distribution chain has the excess capacity necessary to support initial sales of PowerCubes, and also identified PowerCube deployment “break points” on a country-by-country basis when additional ammonia infrastructure investment will be needed. The study also provided external verification that the PowerCube represents a disruptive, fast growing, and highly profitable business opportunity for Afrox.   According to the International ammonia market intelligence monitor, FMB Group, over 100 million metric tons of ammonia are consumed annually, primarily as fertilizer. 2.4 million metric tons of ammonia would be required if all existing off grid cellular phone towers were converted from diesel generators to PowerCubes.  http://www.diverse-energy.com

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‘WORLD FIRST’ FOR CITY’S ELECTRIC CARS

Adelaide City Council has combined green energy with new technology for the city’s environmentally aware shoppers.  Together with the State Government, the Council has installed an electric vehicle charging station at the Central Market car park that is supplied by locally generated low-emission electricity.  Adelaide Lord Mayor, Stephen Yarwood said that,  in what is believed to be a world first, the public charging station is powered by an innovative Australian-developed fuel cell from Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd. This enables city shoppers to recharge their electric vehicles from low emission sources rather than carbon intensive power from the electricity grid. The Central Market in Adelaide is owned and run by the Adelaide City Council and is South Australia’s most visited tourist attraction.

The new station is free to users and can charge two vehicles at a time.  The ChargePoint recharging station’s 2kW BlueGen ceramic fuel cell will be able to generate at least 12,500 kilowatt hours of clean electricity each year. This is enough to power the average South Australian home and two electric cars travelling 15,000 kilometres each per year. Excess power not required for vehicle recharging will be fed into the grid.

“This initiative reinforces the City of Adelaide’s role as a leader in environmental sustainability and new technology,” Stephen Yarwood said.  “This project is a sign of things to come as we move towards a cleaner and greener future for our beautiful city.”   Brendan Dow, Ceramic Fuel Cells Managing Director, added:  “We are excited to have a BlueGen unit at Adelaide Central Market and we are thrilled that the Capital City Committee has recognised BlueGen’s potential to power electric cars.  BlueGen is an ideal companion technology to electric vehicles.” http://www.adelaidecitycouncil.com

MOVING FROM FOSSIL TO RENEWABLE FUELS

The current international situation

The International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook says that the age of cheap oil is over.   If we begin to change now to more efficient use of oil and the development of alternatives, then there could be a smooth transition to future clean energy technologies.  On the other hand if governments do nothing, or little more than at present, then demand for oil will continue to increase, supply costs will rise, the economic burden of oil use will grow, vulnerability to supply disruptions will increase and the global environment will suffer serious damage.

The scenarios in the World Energy Outlook are the New Policies Scenario (NPS), which assumes that governments carry out the new policies and measures announced by countries around the world and the 450 Scenario which proposes a much faster transformation of the global energy system.   In the NPS, the average IEA crude oil price rises from just over $60 in 2009 to $113 per barrel in 2035, compared with $87 in the 450 Scenario or an increase to $140 if we continue with current policies. The 450 Scenario limits global warming gases in the atmosphere to a concentration of 450 parts per million C02 equivalent.  It envisages that there would be major changes in transport fuel.  By 2035 about 70% of global passenger car sales would be advanced vehicles (hybrids, plug-in hybrids and electric cars).  Not only would the proposals under the 450 scenario help to stabilize oil costs, but they would give a reasonable chance of meeting the overall goal of keeping the global temperature increase below 2°C.

The Outlook recommends that present Government subsidies for fossil fuels should be phased out.  These amounted to $312 billion in 2009.  However, government support for renewables can, in principle, be justified by the long-term economic, energy-security and environmental benefits they can bring.  The NPS projects that overall government support for renewables of $57billion in 2009 will rise to $205 billion in 2035. Gas, including unconventional sources, will have an increasing role.  The delays and uncertainties with the Copenhagen Accord have already increased the cost of keeping the global temperature increase below 2°C.  An extra $1 trillion investment will now be needed over the period 2010 and 2030, compared with the assessment in the previous year’s Outlook.

At the launch of the World Energy Outlook, Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency said “We need to use energy more efficiently and we need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels by adopting technologies that have a much smaller carbon footprint”.  Mr Tanaka concluded that keeping the global temperature rise to a maximum of 2°C would require a phenomenal policy push by governments around the world. The technology exists today to enable such a change, but the required rate of technological transformation would be unprecedented.

What could fuel cells contribute?

Fuel cells are becoming more competitive and Government support, similar to that given to other energy saving and renewable technologies, would expedite their introduction and enable economies of scale to be achieved. The widespread use of fuel cells will make a major contribution to Government policies to ensure future energy security and cut global warming gases, as they have the following advantages: 

  • Electro-chemical energy conversion is quiet, with no emissions apart from water vapour
  • Modular construction.  Fuel cells can produce electricity on site thus minimising infrastructure costs and transmission losses
  • Highly reliable 24/7 operation
  • Cost competitive in volume production
  • Rapid deployment is possible
  • They will be powered by the low carbon fuels of the future
  • Hydrogen fuel cell systems act as load levellers for intermittent renewable energy on both a small and large scale
  • Up to 85% efficiency in CHP mode with natural gas, compared to 35% for the electricity grid
  • Exports to developing countries will enable them to utilize a variety of indigenous fuels
  • Fuel cells will be safer than nuclear power
  • High electricity to heat ratio is suitable for CHP units in future well insulated buildings
  • Successful urban vehicle demonstrations, with potential to compete with i.c. engine performance
  • Materials can be recycled.
  • Fuel cells generating energy on site will be less vulnerable to any future cybernet attacks.