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Fuel Cell Power Plants Deployed in California and South Korea

image credit: Bloom Energy
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Generating energy by using solid-oxide fuel cells instead of fossil fuels or renewables is a new technology on the block. Bloom Energy is a company at the forefront of these developments. Two new power plants have just started generating electricity in South Korea.

The first facility is a 19.8-MW installation in Hwasung, in the northern province near Seoul. It is the biggest Bloom Energy plant in South Korea, the other, smaller, facility is in Paju. This 8.1-MW facility will power nearly 18,000 houses.

In California last July, Bloom Energy announced Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) had begun powering two of its biggest Los Angeles-area plants with solid-oxide fuel cells. The rationale seems to be, given the outages recently, to have a back up power system to generate electricity for consumers independently from the power grid, where necessary.


The Technology Behind Solid-Oxide Fuel Cells


The fuel cells generate electricity by passing fuel and air over an anode, a cathode and an electrolyte. An electrochemical reaction converts the fuel as well as air into electricity without any combustion. The system needs high temperatures to function properly. Bloom Energy claims, unlike other types of fuel cells, no corrosive acids, no precious metals, or molten materials are need to build and operate these fuel cells.

Graphic: Bloom Energy


Bloom Energy uses the metaphor of a computer server farm: fuel cell modules are built up into bigger stacks to become an “Energy Server Farm”.

South Korean utility companies are pioneering a variety of fuel cell technologies for power generation, which is beneficial to the economy as the country does not have any natural gas resources of its own and has to import it.

Kris Kim, managing director of strategic development at Bloom Energy, says, “Fuel cells at utility-owned sites are a natural fit as we are both looking to the future of energy and prioritize qualities like fuel flexibility, emissions reductions, efficiency, and reliability.”


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