Australian researchers are hoping to build a hybrid power system that combines ceramic fuel cell technology with a solar thermal system for producing hydrogen fuel. The prototype project is expected to generate around 20 kW of electricity, AAP reports.

The $3.2 million project was launched in Australia by CSIRO. The hybrid system is predicted to be around twice as efficient as coal fired power generation.

The hybrid power generation system will utilize solid oxide fuel cell technology being developed by Ceramic Fuel Cells Ltd. The fuel cells burn hydrogen derived from natural gas or methane.

A novel feature of the hybrid system is the use of solar thermal technology to reform the methane gas used as primary fuel in the cell. High temperature solar thermal techniques can, the researchers believe, be used effectively to convert the methane into hydrogen.

The first stage of the project will involve a feasibility study to look at the system’s design. This will involve examining engineering concepts and availability of components. If this goes well, the next step will be to acquire and coordinate the different technologies involved, as well as developing the solar reforming technology.