Since the beginning of the SOFC Program in 1995, DOE has invested $750 million in the development of these power systems.
The Office of Fossil Energy has prepared this report in response to a request from the United States Congress to provide a summary of the status of the Office of Fossil Energy’s Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) Program (Program). A SOFC is an electrochemical device that produces electricity directly from the oxidation of a hydrocarbon fuel while eliminating the actual combustion step. It has inherent efficiency advantages not offered by other methods of electricity production.
This report summarizes the significant technological advancements toward the Program’s goal of commercialization via partnerships with National Laboratories, academic institutions, and industrial partners.
The Program has identified several key technology areas that affect the performance of a SOFC: core technology, cell development, and system development. The Program operates on two parallel paths to investigate these technology areas: 1) early-stage research and development (R&D), which includes core technology and part of cell development and 2) research, development, and demonstration (RD&D), which includes the balance of cell development and system development. Many SOFC projects have aspects that fall into more than one of the key technology areas. Laboratories within universities or within the National Laboratory system
generally perform the solely R&D projects, while commercial entities perform the solely RD&D projects. Because RD&D projects need to purchase expensive equipment and materials, they are usually more costly than R&D projects.
This report identifies areas that need continued work. The results indicate the need to locate suitable replacement materials for high-temperature operations and for extending operating lifetimes. The Program should continue supporting the commercialization of smaller-scale devices through projects within the SOFC community, while simultaneously supporting efforts to develop systems of one megawatt or higher capacity. The Program is taking early steps to use a SOFC to capture the abundant energy available from coal via coupling with a gasifier.
These steps should continue to be expanded.
There has been progress towards the goal of practical and sustainable solid oxide fuel cells, but the RD&D has yet to reach the developmental tipping point required to incentivize industry to continue RD&D without Federal support.
Read the entire report HERE