Westinghouse reported last week that it had just built thelargest solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) generating system for a Dutchenergy distribution utility. The system, which runs on natural gas,is delivering 106 KW to the electric grid plus 80 KW of thermalpower to the area’s district heating system, according to thecompany. The unit is the first to integrate a natural gas reformerwithin the SOFC stack.

Next year Westinghouse plans to launch an experiment withSouthern California Edison that will couple a pressurized SOFCstack with a gas turbine. The combined hybrid is projected toexceed 70% efficiency at capacity levels as low as a few megawatts.”This unprecedented efficiency is the highest ever projected forfossil-fuel consuming electric power generation systems,” saidWestinghouse.

Meanwhile, Southern California Gas Co. became one of thefounding members of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at theUniversity of California at Irvine. The new institution “willbecome a leader in making fuel cells a viable part of the energymix of the future,” according to Warren Mitchell, president ofSoCalGas. The center will focus on technology transfer, betatesting of prototype units, research and education.

In other fuel cell news, H Power Corp. of Belleville, NJ, saysit has patented a process that reduces the size of a cell stack byhalf and lowering costs proportionately. The company says it plansto use the new design in high-wattage proton exchange membrane(PEM) fuel cells for homes and small businesses as well as largevehicles. It already has a line of fuel cells aimed at smaller,portable applications, ranging from 30 W to 1 KW.

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