South Korean Utility Acquires UTC Power Fuel Cells to Meet Clean Energy Goals

South Korea’s been prime territory for fuel cell manufacturers for some time now, given strong, proactive government support and comparatively generous subsidies. A leader in the field, United Technologies subsidiary UTC Power announced on July 18 that it sold 14 PureCell Model 400 fuel cell systems to Pyeongtaek Energy Service, which intends to use them to help meet growing demand for electricity in the greater Seoul area.

Along with the South Korean government’s clean energy subsidies, the efficiency, reliability and performance of fuel cells have made them particularly popular with South Korean electric utilities. UTC’s PureCell fuel cell systems can operate at up to 90 percent efficiency when used for combined heat and power (CHP). They also boast of a fuel cell stack life of 10 years, both of which rate best in the industry.

“This is a very exciting project for UTC Power. Our PureCell systems will be putting power into the grid to provide clean energy to the growing Seoul metropolitan area,” Joe Triompo, UTC Power vice president and general manager, stated in a press release. “The environmental benefits offered by these highly efficient PureCell systems are a great match for South Korea’s progressive environmental standards. We’re pleased to be a part of their green solution.”

Fuel Cells and South Korea’s RPS

Their substantially greater energy conversion efficiency as compared to conventional fossil fuel power generation also results in UTC’s fuel cells producing proportionally less in the way of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Higher efficiency, along with their reliability and durability, also translates into lower operating costs.

A subsidiary of diversified energy services provider SK E&S, Pyeongtaek’s purchase of 14 PureCell Model 400 systems marks the first time they’ll be used to help meet South Korea’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which calls for renewable energy sources to meet 10 percent of the nation’s electricity demand by 2022.

“This first RPS project is an important milestone for the PureCell system, and is a testament to its proven performance and reliability for multi-megawatt class installations,” commented UTC Power general manager of international sales Eric Strayer. “We are proud to be playing a role in Korea’s clean energy future and developing local capabilities for service and installation with our customer.”

Fuel cells earn double renewable energy credits under South Korea’s RPS. Besides RPS credit, the government offers subsidies of 80 percent for micro-CHP fuel cell plants. South Korea’s Feed-in Tariff (FiT) guarantees that surplus electricity produced from a fuel cell unit will be purchased at premium prices.

The South Korean governments also subsidizing as much as 80 percent of the cost to households of purchasing fuel cells as part of its “Green Home Project,” the aim of which is to have fuel cell systems installed in one million “green” homes by 2020, 100,000 of which will have 1kW fuel cell systems.

The first seven UTC PureCell systems are to be installed at a new SK E&S power plant in the Gyeonggi Province city of Pyeongtaek, Phase I of which is slated for completion in the fall. In addition to producing electricity, they’ll also supply thermal energy for heating and cooling to Godeok International City, a business, technology and international trading center.

Slated to begin in mid-summer 2013, Phase II of the project is to see the second set of seven PureCell fuel cell systems installed at a new power plant complex in Pyeongtaek itself.

An independent journalist, researcher and writer, my work roams across the nexus where ecology, technology, political economy and sociology intersect and overlap. The lifelong quest for knowledge of the world and self -- not to mention gainful employment -- has led me near and far afield, from Europe, across the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa and back home to the Americas. LinkedIn: andrew burger Google+: Andrew B Email: huginn.muggin@gmail.com