One potentially attractive application of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) is for combined heat and power (CHP) in light commercial buildings. An SOFC-based CHP system can be employed to efficiently serve building thermal and electric loads, thereby lowering utility bills and offering many distributed generation benefits. It is often desirable to operate SOFCs in a predominately base load manner from a hardware viewpoint. However, systems in practice will experience some load dynamics during their lifetime and furthermore, optimal economic dispatch of CHP systems frequently recommends a load-following strategy. Thus, the present work is motivated by the need to understand the dynamic response capabilities of SOFC-CHP systems. Part-load performance and dynamic load-following capabilities of a 24 kW planar SOFC system for light commercial applications was investigated through computational modeling. The SOFC and balance-of-plant component models were implemented in gPROMS modeling software. The modeling strategy of each system component and associated transients are discussed. A dynamic SOFC channel-level model, which has been verified against experimental cell data, was integrated with additional balance-of-plant (BOP) component models consisting of a fuel reformer, tail gas combustor, turbomachinery, heat exchangers, and bypass valves. The performance of the system at part-load operation displays increases in electrical efficiency and decreases in CHP efficiency, as well as a more uniform PEN temperature profile. Modeling comparisons between the responses of systems consisting of either dynamic or steady-state BOP component models are reported. A fully dynamic system-level model displays anodic fuel depletion effects and waste heat recovery transients not captured by the steady-state models. The dynamics influence the ability of an SOFC system to load follow indicating when thermal and electric storage may be necessary.

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