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Background Information

Due to the ever increasing concern regarding the provision of future energy and climate change, there is a significant interest in the development of alternative clean energy sources and efficient power generators. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, buildings consume 40% of the world’s primary energy for cooling, heating and power. Most of this energy is in the form of electricity generated at centralised power stations, where at present up to 70% of available energy is lost. The overall system efficiency is low leading to a high waste of energy resources, resulting in considerable CO2 emissions and unnecessarily high running costs. Reducing the energy consumption of buildings can make a substantial contribution towards attaining the European Union’s 20/20/20 targets and at least 80% reduction in its carbon dioxide emissions by 2050. These targets will only be achievable if a decision is made to move from conventional centralised power generation systems to highly-efficient onsite micro-generation technology.

A promising possibility for future onsite energy generation is the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), which uses hydrogen from the natural gas stream to generate electricity through chemical reactions in the anodes, with the only by-products being water vapour, heat and a modest amount of carbon dioxide. this form of electrical generation is more efficient than simply combusting the fuel. Technical assessments demonstrate if SOFC technology is used in a combined heat and power (CHP) setting, the total system efficiency can be as high as 90%, leading to reduced operational cost and CO2 emissions.

Project Proposal

The project is supported by the European Commission under the Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking Initiative (FCH-JU)  for a  “Durable low temperature solid oxide fuel cell Tri-generation system for low carbon buildings” project, agreement No. 303454.

The EU funded undertaking involves seven partners from both academic and industrial backgrounds. The aim is to develop a low-cost durable low temperature (LT) SOFC tri-generation (cooling, heating and power) prototype, based on the breakthroughs in LT-SOFC and desiccant cooling technologies already made by the applicants involved in the project. The project has an acronym of TriSOFC. The concept is illustrated in the figure below.

The TriSOFC concept

The TriSOFC project concept

The proposed system could be used for residential and commercial buildings (e.g. school buildings/offices), providing cooling, heat and power. The TriSOFC system will be tested under a real-life context at The Creative Energy Homes, The University of Nottingham (image below). The Creative Energy Homes are a world leading research and educational showcase of innovative state-of-the-art energy efficient homes.

Creative Energy Homes Project

The Creative Energy Homes, The University of Nottingham

The environmental sustainability of the prototype will be assessed by means of life cycle assessments studies. The result obtained will be disseminated to industry bodies and research institutions as a proof-of-concept for fuel cell tri-generation systems operating in stationary low carbon building applications.

Stay up to date with TriSOFC project developments by going to the ‘Project News’ tab.

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