Due to the increasing concern over the provision of future energy and global warming, 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 using for cooling, heat and power, and most of it is from 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 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 in 2050. But this will only be achieved by moving from conventional centralised power generation systems to onsite highly-efficient clean micro-generation technology.
One of the more promising possibilities for this future energy generation is the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC), which uses the hydrogen from the gas stream to generate electricity through chemical reactions in the anodes, and the only by-product is water vapour, heat and a modest amount of carbon dioxide. This is more efficient than simply combusting the fuel. Technical assessments demonstrate if CHP (combined heat and power) technology is used with a SOFC, the total system efficiency can be as high as 90%, leading to reduced operational cost and CO2 emissions.
The project is an EU funded undertaking involving eight 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 this project. The project has an acronym of TriSOFC.
The proposed system could be used for residential and commercial buildings (e.g. school buildings/offices), providing cooling, heat and power for the living space. It will be tested under a real-life context using a unique zero-carbon modular home as part of the Creative Energy Homes at the University of Nottingham, shown in the image below (http://www.creative-energy-homes.co.uk/).
The environmental sustainability of the prototype will be assessed by means of Life Cycle Assessments studies, and the result obtained will be disseminated to industry and research as proof-of-concept of fuel cell systems for stationary applications for sustainable low carbon buildings.