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South Korean utility and residents will own 30.8MW of fuel cells in Busan

Interior view of hydrogen electrolyser. Image: ITM Power.
Doosan Fuel Cell America will supply 30.8MW of hydrogen fuel cells to Busan, South Korea, in a deal also involving Samsung Construction and Trading (Samsung C&T) and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power.

Doosan Fuel Cell, a subsidiary of South Korean company Doosan Corporation, manufactures, designs and engineers fuel cells for use at commercial and industrial (C&I) scale. The company will supply 70 of its fuel cells to the “Busan Green Energy Project”, providing clean power and heat to a residential complex in the port city.

The city of Busan and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, itself a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and one of the country’s biggest utilities, will retain shared ownership of the fuel cells, with the utility using the fuel cells to power the new residential development. Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) duties will fall to Samsung C&T, with the project capable of powering an estimated 71,500 homes.

South Korea’s utility companies are mandated to maintain and develop energy infrastructure to renewable portfolio standards. According to Doosan Fuel Cell, these regulations, coupled with the non-land intensive applications possible with fuel cells, are contributing to a “growing acceptance” of the technology. Doosan has deployed some fuel cells already in South Korea, with the latest deal to bring their total installations in the country up to 45MW across 105 fuel cell projects.

Delivery of the Busan Green Energy Project fuel cell units is expected to be completed by August 2016, to go online by February 2017.

“The 'Busan Green Energy Project' illustrates how companies can collaborate to create and implement a plan that minimises harmful greenhouse gas emissions and moderates everyday energy costs,” Geoff Chung, Doosan CEO and president said.

“For the past 15 months, we've been investing in our production facility to expand capacity, which allows us to manufacture power plants in a short timeframe. Additionally, the Busan 70 fuel cell installation will be fully scalable. The power plants will be installed on a multi-story structure that will occupy less than one acre in Busan – compared to solar panels requiring over 231 acres to generate the same amount of power.”

'Paradigm shift'

Hydrogen fuel cells have been lauded for their efficiency and the opportunity they provide for reducing emissions. As an energy carrier the element is considered effective, but still too expensive in the majority of applications. In an interview with PV Tech Storage earlier this year, Prof Christopher Hebling, an expert in the technology at Fraunhofer ISE, said that hydrogen fuel cells and the related power-to-gas (P2G – converting energy into natural gas) could be a game changer “in terms of the possibility and the paradigm shift which is behind it”. Hebling said that despite this, in most regions, with no taxes on carbon emissions to incentivise its use relative to fossil fuels or nuclear, the business case for it largely does not exist.

However, as has been seen with solar PV and latterly in energy storage, some regions have more to gain in the immediate future than others from investing in hydrogen. South Korea is seen as a case in point when it comes to batteries – solar inverter maker SMA Solar Technology was recently awarded a contract to provide 200MW of inverters to grid-connected energy storage projects, for example.

In a guest blog for PV Tech Storage this week, SMA’s Volker Wachenfeld and Dr Aleksandra Sasa Bukvic-Schaeffer wrote that South Korea’s drive for storage is driven by two things – relative energy ‘isolation’ in that the country has no immediate neighbours on its borders besides North Korea, with which it obviously shares no grid connection, and demands from South Korea’s government on promoting economic growth. In LG Chem and Samsung SDI, the country already has two major providers of lithium-ion batteries.

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