The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is collaborating with Toyota through a cooperative research and development agreement to build, install, and evaluate a one-megawatt (MW) proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cell power generation system at NREL’s Flatirons Campus.
This three-year, $6.5 million project is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, and supports their H2@Scale vision for clean hydrogen use across multiple applications and economic sectors.
“We will study the scaling of PEM fuel cell systems for stationary power generation to understand what the performance, durability, and system integration challenges are,” said Daniel Leighton, an NREL research engineer and principal investigator on the project. “This fuel cell generator system also creates a new megawatt-scale fuel cell research capability at NREL.”
The one-MW fuel cell system integrates multiple Toyota fuel cell modules into a larger system to provide responsive stationary power. The system demonstrates a simplified design as a drop-in replacement to a conventional generator, and Toyota has developed an integrated control system to manage operation of the fuel cell modules to maximise efficiency and system life.
Through a previous collaboration, NREL has demonstrated the use of an automotive fuel cell system to provide carbon-free power for a data centre. This new system is at a significantly larger scale, generating about 15 times more power, and is capable of direct current and alternating current output.
Toyota is providing the fuel cell modules and is working with systems integrator Telios for design, balance of plant integration, and build of the system for delivery to NREL.
NREL researchers will push the operational boundaries of the fuel cell system design to identify performance limitations and degradation over time, generating valuable real-world data to aid with development of future applications. Research and development will also include assessing how the system performs when integrated with energy storage and renewable energy systems, such as solar and wind.
“Achieving carbon neutrality requires all of us to explore new applications of zero-emission technology, including how that technology will integrate with other systems, which the project with NREL will identify,” said Christopher Yang, group vice president of business development, fuel cell solutions, at Toyota. “The application of our modules in deployments of this magnitude shows the scalability of Toyota’s fuel cell technology, whether it is a single fuel cell module for one passenger vehicle or multiple systems combined to power heavy-duty equipment.”
The fuel cell generator is part of the Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) megawatt-scale hydrogen system being designed and commissioned at NREL’s Flatirons Campus. The flexible system – which includes a 1.25-MW PEM electrolyser, 600kg hydrogen storage system, and one-MW fuel cell generator – provides a platform to demonstrate direct renewable hydrogen production, energy storage, power production, and grid integration at the megawatt scale.
The fuel cell generator system will be installed this summer, and the full system will be commissioned later in 2022.