A new combination pressurized fuel cell and microturbine hasbeen developed that is expected to generate electricityefficiently, cleanly and at a lower cost than either of the twosystems on a stand-alone basis.

The Department of Energy, the California Energy Commission andEdison International funded the $16 million demonstration project.Edison International’s subsidiary, Southern California Edison,holds a key patent and extensive worldwide marketing rights to thetechnology. Now that the prototype has successfully completedfactory testing, the unit goes to the National Fuel Cell ResearchCenter at the University of California, Irvine to gather data todesign commercial models.

The non-combustion unit combines a pressurized solid oxide fuelcell (PSOFC) and a high-speed microturbine generator, which willproduce 220 kW or enough electricity for more than 200 homes. Itwill generate electricity at 55% efficiency, slightly better thanthe 50% efficiency rate for current natural gas turbines.

“The solid oxide fuel cell is made up of ceramic tubes that eachoperate like a battery,” DOE said. “The big difference is thatunlike a battery, fuel cells never run down as long as fuel —natural gas in this case — and air are provided.”

The PSOFC stack was manufactured by Siemens Westinghouse PowerCorp. of Orlando, FL, and the microturbine generator was made byIngersoll-Rand Energy systems of Woburn, MA. Edison Internationalwas instrumental in establishing the California research centersand its shareholders will receive 98.5% of gross revenues when theproduct is commercialized.

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