Quadgeneration first

21 September 2001

Woking, in southern England, is the location of the UK’s first fuel cell CHP system, part of the local council’s renewables initiative on a site known as Woking Park dedicated to various new energy technologies. The 200 kW International Fuel Cells combination cell/CHP unit is part of a larger project including a 1.35 MWe reciprocating engine CHP unit, solar energy photovoltaics, heat fired absorption cooling and thermal store, making a total CHP capacity of 1.55 MWe interconnected with a network of heating and chilled water mains and private wiring.

What will in fact be a quadgeneration system will supply low grade heat to a swimming pool, high grade heat to the its heating systems, chilled water to cooling and air conditioning systems via the heat fired absorption chillers, electricity, and (potentially) pure water via a water recovery system. Power generated will be used for the site’s lighting. As water from a fuel cell has never been recovered and utilised as a water supply in this way before (other than in spacecraft) the recovered clean exhaust water will be subject to testing prior to utilisation.

The fuel cell CHP unit is manufactured by US company International Fuel Cells and generates 207 kW at 400 V from 272 cells. It has a phosphoric acid electrolyte, and uses oxygen extracted from the outside air and hydrogen chemically reformed from natural gas. Each sub-stack consists of eight cells, with a heat exchanger dividing each stack from the next.

Demonstration function

The green energy project is part of energy services company Thameswey’s overall concept to demonstrate how such technologies can be implemented in the deregulated energy market in the UK. The combined system will meet the energy demands of Woking Park, and become a net exporter of electricity all year round. The electricity will initially be exported to other Council sites to offset the authority’s exposure to the UK government’s climate change Levy but in conjunction with other Thameswey CHP projects will be supplied to local sheltered housing residents and businesses under the government’s proposed (more relaxed) Exempt Licencing regime to maximise income while still supplying cheaper 'green' energy to the local community; and demonstrating how such integrated green technologies can be made commercially viable. Phase 1 (fuel cell installation) is scheduled to be completed by December 2001 and Phase 2 (district energy) by 2002.

Another DTI supported project, to be carried out by Advantica Technologies Ltd, will track the project from beginning to end, including the original conception, planning, development, procurement, financing and installation, as well as the subsequent operation and maintenance. The information gathered is to be made available in detailed form to industry and to other local aluthorities and private sector organisations.

Public information

The planning permission stipulates that the fuel cell should be open to public view, and the site will be provided with a technology information/display viewing area for education purposes and to demonstrate how new and renewable energy can be integrated with other sustainable technologies.

Depending on the commercial results of this project and the level of acceptance of the green energy concept by consumers Thameswey intends to exploit fuel cell combined heat and power technology, as part of its green energy portfolio, where appropriate projects become available.

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