Unlike conventional combustion technologies that burn fuel, fuel cells convert hydrogen-rich fuel into electricity via an electrochemical process. Fuel cells are highly efficient and can be very clean, with by-products that include only electricity, heat, and water. Because they produce electricity as long as a fuel source is provided, they do not need to be recharged like batteries. Fuel cells have no moving parts, enabling them to operate quietly. There are several types of fuel cells, operating at different temperature and with different fuels.
An important feature of fuel cells is their scalability. Individual fuel cells can be “stacked” and these stacks can be combined into large systems. Therefore, fuel cell systems vary in size and power, from portable systems for smartphone battery recharging, to combustion engine replacements in vehicles, to larger scale units providing electricity directly to buildings or to the electric grid.
Hydrogen is the ideal fuel for fuel cells. Like electricity, hydrogen is an energy carrier that can be produced from many different domestic energy resources – natural gas, petroleum products, coal, solar and wind electrolysis, biomass, etc. When renewable resources are used to produce the fuel, fuel cells are zero-emission systems that can address urban air quality problems and climate change. Natural gas can also be used directly in a fuel cell. The high efficiency of fuel cells, combined with the high hydrogen-to-carbon ratio of natural gas, its high availability and low cost, make some types of fuel cells an excellent choice for stationary power generation, including distributed energy resources for backup power. In some areas of the country, natural gas can be produced from biomass, making it a renewable resource.
In summary, fuel cells provide the following benefits:
- Low-to-Zero Emissions
- High Efficiency
- Fuel Flexibility
- Reliability and Resiliency
- Energy Security
- Quiet Operation
For more information on fuel cells and hydrogen, see …