global • technology Fuel cell development is attracting the serious attention of major energy players. And, while fuel cell companies have yet to make any money, investor confidence is booming.

Among a number of projects recently announced, Canada’s Ballard Power Systems has shipped its second 250 kWe stationary system for field testing. The move will see the system installed in Berlin at Bewag’s Treptow heating unit. Bewag is the largest CHP company in Berlin and will lead a number of European energy interests in testing the system. Shareholders in the Ballard Generation Systems subsidiary include Alstom, GPU International and Japan’s Ebara Corp, which recently announced a venture with Ballard to distribute and market fuel cell technology in Japan. The first 250 kWe system under test from Ballard was shipped to Cinergy last September. Despite these moves, Ballard made a loss of C$14.7 million ($9.8 million) for its first quarter on sales of just C$4 million.

Another stationary fuel cell developer, International Fuel Cells, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. recently delivered its 200th fuel cell system of 200 kWe, in this case to Japan’s Toshiba Corp.

In a cross-border deal, Canada, the US DoE and Siemens Westinghouse Power Corp. are to develop a 250 kWe fuel cell generator that will be installed in the Ontario Power Generation system. The $18 million pilot CHP project is due to come on-stream by May 2001. It will also produce 145 kWth for Ontario Power Technologies site heating system, where the development is taking place. And, although the first commercial orders for the system are not expected until 2002, Canada’s Department of Natural Resources has reportedly suggested that it expects fuel cell technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 8 million tonnes by 2010.

Meanwhile, Siemens Westinghouse is developing a hybrid gas turbine-fuel cell system. A 220 kWe proof of concept system has been shipped to University of California, Irvine, for commercial testing by Southern California Edison. The $16 million project uses exhaust from the pressurised solid oxide fuel cell to generate additional power from a microturbine developed by Ingersoll Rand Energy Systems. Electrical efficiency of the system is quoted at 55 per cent, although Siemens claims that 70 per cent is possible. Commercial production is expected by 2004.

Another hybrid system is under development by Finland’s Fortum. Here a 50 – 250 We solar-fuel cell hybrid is due for commercial use this year.

Residential developments

In the domestic market, Nisource subsidiary, EnergyUSA, with Institute of Gas Technology subsidiary Endesco, plans to install its test unit in an Indiana housing development. When constructed, over the next few months, a house will be powered by a fuel-cell CHP system developed by the joint venture, Mosaic Energy. Nisource plans to begin delivering the systems, which are estimated to reduce total residential energy costs by some 15 per cent, to the commercial market next year and has doubled its investment in Mosaic as part of its commitments. Full scale production is anticipated in 2002. In New York, KeySpan Energy has also announced a residential trial programme. Its KeySpan Technologies unit recently signed a testing and evaluation agreement with GE.

However, the GE residential venture with fuel cell manufacturer Plug Power, of which it owns 12 per cent, may be in doubt after design changes relieved it of contractual obligations to purchase Plug’s systems. Nonetheless, both companies suggest that GE will eventually purchase the bulk of the 485 systems ordered under the contract, although some not until 2001.

GE Microgen was initially to market 7 kWe systems expected to retail for $7500, with the first commercial devices due in 2001 and with CHP units available by 2003. And, although analysts and the stockmarket reacted negatively to news of the contractual arrangements, GE Microgen recently signed a distribution agreement with Japan’s Kubota Corp. for its Plug Power supplied system.

Developments are not limited to generation or technology companies. Oil major Texaco has taken a $67.3 million, 20 per cent stake in fuel processor Energy Conversion Devices as part of a joint venture to develop and market fuel cells.

Significantly, investment company Nuveen Structured Investments has launched a fuel cell sector portfolio.