Much of these increases were driven by state incentives,
primarily in California and Connecticut, although other states in
the Northeast have begun implementing fuel cells in microgrids
as part of resiliency efforts following hurricane Sandy.
Additionally, almost 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies
now use fuel cells for stationary or motive power generation,
powering everything from forklifts and data centers to cell
phone towers and corporate facilities. “Fuel cell systems
will have a prominent place in the overall distributed power
generation mix,” says McGuinness.
Another innovation indicator is patents, and according to the
Clean Energy Patent Growth Index Report, approximately 300
different entities were granted 880 total fuel cell patents in
2014. Toyota leads with the greatest number of patents (with
101 patents) while General Motors, Samsung, Honda, and
Hyundai follow to round out the top five assignees.
GE has also been making significant investments in the
technology after opening its fuel cell testing and research
facility in New York to focus specifically on developing its solid
oxide fuel cell technology. This technology is being used in
part to power the company’s small heat and power generation
system, which uses the natural gas-fueled solid oxide fuel cells
and a GE Jenbacher reciprocating gas engine. The company is
in the process of developing a 1.3 megawatt FC-CC system,
which will produce enough electricity for 1,000 homes, with
plans to develop a 10 megawatt system.
Ultimately, while government and commercial investments,
as well as the significant industry growth, point to a shift in
the market, further innovation is still needed for the technology
to be financially viable for commercial adoption. “There
are still some tough challenges ahead,” says McGuiness.
“Getting to a cost-competitive position – just like wind and
solar technologies – is the top priority. Without it, there is no
adoption model that works.”
All kinds of remote wireless devices will soon be
connected to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIo T). Many of
these devices will be powered by an industrial grade primary
lithium battery, or, in limited circumstances, by an energy
harvesting device in conjunction with an industrial grade
rechargeable Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery.
However, energy harvesting is still unproven for delivering
long-term reliability, and adds bulk and expense, making primary
bobbin-type lithium thionyl chloride (LiSOCl2) batteries the
preferred for most remote wireless applications due their energy
density, capacity, and temperature range. Certain bobbin-type
LiSOCl2 cells feature an annual self-discharge rate of less than
1% per year, permitting 40-year battery life.
Bobbin-type LiSOCl2 cells can also be modified with a
patented hybrid layer capacitor (HLC) to deliver periodic
high pulses for advanced wireless communications. This
solution offers advantages over supercapacitors, which have
limitations such as short duration power, limited energy
discharge, low capacity, low energy density, and high self-discharge (up to 60% per year).
When comparing consumer grade and industrial grade
batteries, it pays to perform a total lifetime cost comparison
that factors in all anticipated expenses, as labor costs often
far exceed the cost of the batteries themselves.
Powering the IIoT
By Sol Jacobs, Tadiran Batteries
A close up of the Toyota Mirai fuel cell. (Image credit: Takashi Images)