Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is working with industry to independently monitor up to fifteen distinct 5 kilowatt-electric (kWe) combined heat and power (CHP) high temperature (HT) proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell systems (FCSs) installed in light commercial buildings. This research paper discusses an evaluation of the first six months of measured performance data acquired at a one-second sampling rate from real-time monitoring equipment attached to the FCSs at building sites. Engineering performance parameters are independently evaluated.
Based on an analysis of the first few months of measured operating data, FCS performance is consistent with manufacturer-stated performance. Initial data indicate that the FCSs have relatively stable performance and a long term average production of about 4.57 kWe of power. This value is consistent with, but slightly below, the manufacturer’s stated rated electric power output of 5 kWe. The measured system net electric efficiency has averaged 33.7%, based on the higher heating value (HHV) of natural gas fuel. This value, also, is consistent with, but slightly below, the manufacturer’s stated rated electric efficiency of 36%. The FCSs provide low-grade hot water to the building at a measured average temperature of about 48.4°C, lower than the manufacturer’s stated maximum hot water delivery temperature of 65°C.
The uptime of the systems is also evaluated. System availability can be defined as the quotient of total operating time compared to time since commissioning. The average values for system availability vary between 96.1 and 97.3%, depending on the FCS evaluated in the field. Performance at Rated Value for electrical efficiency (PRVeff) can be defined as the quotient of the system time operating at or above the rated electric efficiency and the time since commissioning. The PRVeff varies between 5.6% and 31.6%, depending on the FCS field unit evaluated. Performance at Rated Value for electrical power (PRVp) can be defined as the quotient of the system time operating at or above the rated electric power and the time since commissioning. PRVp varies between 6.5% and 16.2%. Performance at Rated Value for electrical efficiency and power (PRVt) can be defined as the quotient of the system time operating at or above both the rated electric efficiency and the electric power output compared to the time since commissioning. PRVt varies between 0.2% and 1.4%. Optimization to determine the manufacturer rating required to achieve PRVt greater than 80% has been performed based on the collected data. For example, for FCS unit 130 to achieve a PRVt of 95%, it would have to be down-rated to an electrical power output of 3.2 kWe and an electrical efficiency of 29%.The use of PRV as an assessment metric for FCSs has been developed and reported for the first time in this paper.
For FCS Unit 130, a 20% decline in electric power output was observed from approximately 5 kWe to 4 kWe over a 1,500 hour period between Dec. 14th 2011 and Feb. 14th 2012.