Energy Matters

 

 

Is the world going to see an “Energy Revolution” shortly?

The entire world is going through unprecedented crisis on the Energy front. The steep rise in the price of fuel and the constantly depleting Natural Resources have become a burning issue and the world is going through unprecedented turmoil.

When the price of oil increased from $ 30 per Barrel to $ 40 per Barrel, the world was shaken up. Today, the same has reached $ 70 per Barrel and the Engineers and the Scientists through out the world are frantically trying to find out alternate source of Energy as well as pursuing new ideas in Sustainable Energy.

It is widely acknowledged that Oil Reserves are going to last for 30 to 40 years and Gas Reserves upto 50 to 60 years.

What is the answer to Energy Problems once the reserves are totally exhausted?
Can we imagine life without Energy? Without Electricity? Without Transporation – Automobiles and Cars?

During the present deluge and devastation which the city of Mumbai underwent in the last week of July when many areas of Mumbai remained without power for 5 to 7 days at length, one realised the Hardship he has to undergo in darkness without power or fuel and how much we depend on Energy.

It is no wonder that the constantly depleting sources of Energy at the same time the spiralling price of fuel today has forced the large and medium Organisations and Multinationals in various countries to find out alternate source of power which is also sustainable.


Jamshyd N. Godrej, Chairman and Managing Director, Godrej 
& Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. and Vinod Khosla, Venture Capitalist,
 inaugurate the Ion America Development Centre at 
Pirojshanagar, Plant – 19.

“Fuel Cell” is one such technology on which number of Research Organisations and Multinationals are carrying out research throughout the world.

Fuel Cells are Electro Chemical Devices that converts Chemical Energy of a reaction directly into Electrical Energy. A Fuel Cell is an Electrochemical Device in which Fuel is oxidised without combustion to generate Electrical Energy.

Fuel Cell consists of Electrolytic layer in contact with Porus anodes and cathodes on either side. While passing the fuel through these Porus layers, Electro Magnetic reaction takes place at the Electrodes producing Electricity.

Fuell Cell is typically like a battery with a basic difference.

The Battery is an Energy Storage Device with maximum energy available determined by the amount of chemical reaction stored within the battery itself.

Fuel Cell on the other hand, is an Energy “Conversion” Device that theoretically has the capacity of producing Electrical Energy continuously as long as fuel is supplied to the Electrodes.


Vinod Khosla addresses the crowd, while H.N. Daruwalla,
 Vice President and Business Head, Electrical & Electronic
 Division, Jamshyd N. Godrej and Dr. K.R. Shridhar, Chief
 Executive Officer, Ion America, listen attentively.

Today a number of Multi Nationals and Research Organisations are carrying out research in Fuel Cells. Most common classification of the Fuel Cell is by the type of Electrolyte used, viz.
a. Polymer Electrolytic Fuel Cell (PEFC)
b. Alkaline Fuel Cell (AFC)
c. Phosphoric Acid Fuel Cell (PAFC)
d. Molten Carbon Fuel Cell (MCFC)
e. Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC)

Many large Organisations and Multi Nationals today carrying out frantic research and development and racing to come out with commercially viable Fuel Cell Technology which can be an answer to the fuel crisis.

To understand the working of a Fuel Cell, you can imagine a Diesel Generating Set running on Fuel and producing Electricity. However, there are 4 major differences 
1. Fuel cell does not make any noise or vibration
2. Fuel cell does not give out any exhaust
3. Fuel cell efficiencies are very high
4. Fuel cell does not require any maintenance

Typically the DG sets run at an Thermal Efficiency of 25 to 30%. Further to above, its part load efficiency is very poor, in the sense that the DG set consumes more fuel at 20% to 30% of its Full Load capacity, compared to what it consumes at 100% loading.

Compared to that, a Fuel Cell does not generate any noise and is as silent as any household appliance. Does not generate any exhaust. And at the same time can operate at efficiencies as much as 80 to 85%.

Further, it has excellent part load efficiency wherein it consumes fuel in proportion to the load applied to it. A Fuel Cell takes in any kind of Fuel (Gas or any kind of oil) and gives out Electricity, CO2, Heat and Hydrogen, depending on the Technology deployed.
All the Organisations developing Fuel Cells are trying to come out with Stackable Blocks. The basic Block of 5 Fuel Cells each of 5 KVA Capacity can be stacked together to build a stack of 25 KVA. Similarly 5 Fuel Cells of 100 KVA each can be stacked together to make a stack of 500 KVA.

Mosr Research Organisations are coming out with stacks which can provide uninterrupted power in case one Fuel Cell malfunctions in the stack. Hence, if a 5 KVA Fuel Cell becomes defective, from a stack of 25 KVA, the entire stack continues to generate 20 KVA supply and the defective unit can be racked out and replaced with a healthy unit without power interruption.

Successful commercialisation of Fuel Cell will see a revolution in the power Industry.

What will be the cost of a Fuel Cell?

When commercialised, initially the cost of a Fuel Cell may be higher than the cost of equivalent DG set. This is because of new Technology as well as the Equipment being more than double the efficiency.

However, when manufactured in large volume, the cost is expected to be equal, to, if not lower than the Conventional DG Set.

Power Generation Takes a Full Circle

Before the beginning of 20th Century, there was no concept of Centralised Power Generation, small power plants in the form of Generators and Mini power plants were put up at required load centres., electrifying islands of load centres and industrial estates.

Centralised power plants became the order of the day in the 20th Century wherein 100 MW, 200 MW and later 500 MW Thermal Power Plants were put up at Pit Heads where Coal and Oil are readily available and electricity transmitted over long distance through transmission lines. This is because, transportation of electricity works out easier than the transportation of large quantity of coal and oil.
Above method of power distribution which became very popular 100 years ago, is still being followed today.


H.N. Daruwalla explains the external facilities provided to
 Vinod Khosla, Dr. K.R. Shridhar and Sandeep Kohli, Project Officer, IFC.

However, it is not an efficient method of power generation and transmission. First of all there are 10 to 15% technical loss in the form of Transmission and Distribution losses wherein power is wasted in transmitting power from Thermal Station upto the Load Centres.

Unfortunately in our country there are other losses which are termed as “Commercial Losses” in the form of theft, accounting for as much as 10 to 15% additional losses. Overall the transmission, distribution and commercial losses come to as high as 30 to 40% in almost all State Electricity Boards through out the country. Some SEBs having T & D & C Losses even more than 50%.

We can ill afford to waste such a high quantum of power especially in light of scarce oil and coal resources available to us at the same time, the spiralling cost of fuel is staring at us.


One such Company, which is quite advanced in developing a Fuel Cell is Ion America.

Ion America is a company based in Sunnyvale, California headed by Dr. K.R.Sridhar.

Dr. K.R.Sridhar is a Mechanical Engineer from R.E.C Trichy with M.S and PHD from University of Illinois.

Thereafter he was a professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at University of Arizona.

He is the co-founder, President and CEO of Ion America.

Ion America is working on development of fuel cells based on solid oxide electrolyte technology.

Ion America approached Godrej for leasing space for their Test and Characterization Center.

Our Construction Department provided all facilities and completed all Statutes required for Ion America to take possession of this Premises.

Ion America approached E&E Division to provide all other infrastructure.
The Furnishing was done by our FIG Division.

E&E Division took up complete Turn Key Job and completed the whole project in 3 months’ time.

The facility was inaugurated by Mr. J N Godrej, our CMD along with Mr. Vinod Khosla, Venture Capitalist and Dr. K R Sridhar, CEO, Ion America on Tuesday, 23rd August, 2005.

Wishing Ion America all the best for the Development of Fuel Cells and coming out with commercialization of the same and bring about a revolution in sustainable Energy for future generations.


Once Fuel Cells become successful and are commercialised, they would revolutionalise the enire Power Industry wherein the concept of Centralised power Generation will be totally abandoned and as a result Distributed Power Plants will be set up in a big way.

Fuel Cells of capacities of 100 to 500 KVA can be readily deployed for commercial and residential buildings. Fuel Cells of the size of 1 MVA to 5 MVA can be installed in small and Medium industrial units and Technological Parks to feed power to the related areas.
The biggest advantage being, generating clean power without any Air, Water or Noise pollution at a very high efficiency and with Zero T&D Losses.

This will make the Fuel Cells 3 times more efficient than the present conventional method of generating Electricity at Centralised location.

The first advantage is, the Fuel Cell has almost double the efficiency of Thermal Power Plant or a DG Set.

Secondly, 20 to 30% of power is saved by eliminating Transmission and distribution losses and hence the Fuel Cells become 3 times more efficient for the same quantity of fuel consumed.

The most useful byproduct in running of Fuel Cell is the Heat generated which can be utilised for residential, commercial and industrial use.

Heat generated can be used for Heating in the House, Central Heating, Central Air Conditioners (through Vapour Absorption System). Heat can also be utilised in the Process Industries.

Hence, you can visualise a Developer constructing a building with 40 to 50 flats and each flat being provided with a small Fuel Cell of size of an Appliance like Refrigerator installed in each Flat generating all the power required for this Flat.

Connecting a Gas line or Fuel line to this Fuel Cell will generate the total energy required for the Flat at the same time, generate enough heat to centrally Heat or centrally Cool the entire Flat and enough hot water for cooking, bathing, cleaning...

Another useful byproduct coming out of the Full Cell is Hydrogen. Hydrogen generated from the Fuel Cells can be stored and used to run Automobiles.

Hence in next 3 to 5 years, we will be fortunate to see Giant Strides taken in developing Fuel Cell Technology wherein a hundred year old concept of Centralised Power Generation will be totally abandoned and Distributed Power Generation in the form of Stacks of Fuel Cells will be widely adapted to provide Electricity, and also to provide Heat and Fuel for running Automobiles.

Energy through Fuel Cell is a classic example of sustainable Energy and can be an answer to ever present Energy crisis.

H.N. Daruwalla
Electrical & Electronic Division


 

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