Wärtsilä has started up the first prototype of its WFC20 fuel cell, marking a significant milestone in the company’s fuel cell development programme. The 20 kWe alpha-prototype was warmed up for the first time in the Wärtsilä Fuel Cell Laboratory in Espoo, Finland, and will start generating electricity when it has reached its operating temperature of 750°C.

The start up of the prototype is the culmination of a year of testing in which various subsystems such as the fuel reformer, and the automation and control systems have been verified. The WFC20 alpha-prototype developed by Wärtsilä is the first SOFC power unit ever build in Finland and globally one of the first units based on planar SOFC technology in the given power range.

The WFC20 unit will be operated at the Espoo laboratory and will provide power and heat to the local grid.

The WFC20 alpha-prototype is an integrated power unit that uses natural gas as fuel. The cell and stack technology used in the unit is based on the planar SOFC technology developed by Wärtsilä’s long-term collaboration partner, Topsøe Fuel Cell A/S (TOFC).

Wärtsilä has been developing fuel cell technology for power generation and marine applications since the year 2000. In 2004, it started the operation of a 5 kW SOFC test system, which provided a reference point for the development of the WFC20 alpha-prototype.