— Around The Home
"Ene-Farm" home fuel cell moves into a condo
The new "Ene-Farm" home fuel cell installed in a condominium's pipe shaft with the fuel cell on the right, the backup heat source on the left and the hot water unit at the rear
Panasonic and Tokyo Gas have continued joint development of their "Ene-Farm" home fuel cell unit, which became the world's first commercialized fuel cell system targeted at household heating and electricity generation when it went on sale in Japan in May 2009. The latest model is aimed at use in condominiums and features a number of modifications to ensure the units meet the more stringent installation standards placed on those buildings.
Like previous Ene-Farm units, the new model uses a fuel processor to extract hydrogen from the city gas supply and react it with oxygen from the atmosphere to generate heat that is then used to generate electricity as well as supply hot water.
By increasing the airtightness of the unit and thickening the exterior panels, the companies have made it possible for the new fuel cell to be installed in a condominium's pipe shaft in the open hallway. Pipe shafts run vertically through condominium floors and house water and gas pipes, while open hallways are hallways with residential units on one side and exterior space on the other.
The legs of the unit have been strengthened to improve earthquake resistance, while the exhaust structure has been integrated into a single outlet to improve wind resistance and allow operation in high winds of up to 58 knots (108 km/h / 67 mph) to make it possible to install the unit in the upper floors of a multi-story condo.
Capable of generating between 250 and 700 W, Panasonic and Tokyo Gas claim the new Ene-Farm fuel cell for condominiums can reduce primary energy consumption by 37 percent and cut CO2 emissions by 49 percent compared to sourcing electricity from thermal power plants and heating water using city gas. The companies estimate that = this could add up to savings of 30,000 to 40,000 yen (US$305 to $420) on an annual utility bill and reduce annual CO2 emissions by around one ton.
Tokyo Gas plans to release the new fuel cell for condominiums in Japan from April 1, 2014 and is aiming for sales of 500 units over the following year. It has already had interest from a couple of real estate companies that are keen to adopt the new fuel cell in two properties comprising a total of 456 units.
About the Author
Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.
All articles by Darren Quick
700 watts? They will definitely need energy efficient appliances and it appears perhaps batteries also? Can it store energy? Sounds great but more input needed. I've always imagined 1 fuel cell for every 5 houses are whatever is most efficient but these overhead power lines in Hurricane prone areas aren't and never will be the solution homeowners are looking for. Independence from Georgia Power would be an attractive selling point.
Save $400 at what up front cost? Payback period?
This doesn't make sense to me for several reasons. Natural gas powered fuel cells have been around (at least in experimental stages) since the 1960's. There are quite a few companies that are actually building and selling such devices without the physical size, capacity and lifespan issues I see in this press release. A quick Google search will find 'em for you.
together with power to fuel tech this would allow households to go carbon free ( http://www.sunfire.de/en/produkte/fuel/power-to-gas-methanisierung ), using existent distribution channels.
I wouldn't be interested in only a 37% reduction. If I were going to spend the kind of money a fuel cell would require, plus pay for gas, I want the unit to provide all my electricity. Just my preference.
A good start, but what is the payback period? Better if it replaced any need for 'outside' electric power supply as interruptions are all too frequent, even from such small things like cars damaging power poles. I know gas pipelines can also suffer - say in earthquakes or an errant power trench-digger - but a short-term bottled supply could suffice till repairs made, with no more hassles than people get waiting for power line repairs.
I stick with an ICE powered tri-generation plant that can power my house, and provide domestic hot water, and heating and keep my food fresh.
Wow. Could someone calculate the ROI time for this thing? 37% electricity savings, how much gas consumption, and how much investment in equipment and installation? Doesn't seem like rocket surgery to see it's just not financially sound.
I wonder how much hydrogen you can generate from a solar panel using electrolysis.... compress and store the gas.... and then use it in a fuel cell to produce electricity and hot water for house. Self sufficient system, especially for people off the grid like in Alaska back country.... rather then batteries.
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