Boosting Competition and Economic Growth-The Clean Air Act and Non Utility Generators:
The Clean Air Act mandates significantly reduced emissions of sulfur and nitrogen compounds from existing power plants, and sets strict limits on emissions from new sources. In the short term, these restrictions may encourage the use of underutilized fuels, particularly natural gas, by electric power producers.
The increased use of natural gas will encourage electricity generation by non-utility generators (NUGs) - independent power producers, small power generators, cogenerators, industrial generators, and commercial/residential generators.
Estimates of the effect of the Clean Air Act indicate that NUGs may provide as much as 50 to 70 percent of the total new generating capacity from 1999 to 2010. Natural gas could be the preferred fuel through 2015.
The Clean Air Act, with its emphasis on lower emissions, encourages the commercial use of fuel cell power plants.
In the early market-entry years, a reliance on natural gas will predominate; later, as needs grow and new coal technologies emerge, a transition to coal-based systems will occur. The natural gas to coal gas transition follows the commercialization path planned for fuel
cell technologies:New Skilled Jobs in High Technology Manufacturing-
In addition to providing enormous environmental benefits, the increased use of fuel cell power plants offers societal benefits. High-technology manufacturing processes are required to fabricate fuel cells, and an increasing number of skilled jobs will have to be created to meet the demand for fuel cell stacks.
A recent estimate suggests that a company will need to produce about 100 megawatts of fuel cell stacks annually to achieve a competitive price of $1,000 to $1,500 per kilowatt.
Current production capacity of all manufacturers totals about 60 megawatts per year. A significant increase in manufacturing facilities and employment throughout the Nation will occur as fuel cell usage increases.
Advancing Fuel Cells into the Marketplace:
Driven by the need to produce ever more power while reducing the harmful by-products of conventional generating technologies, efforts to refine fuel cells and apply them to stationary electric power generation are now bearing fruit.
Large-scale fuel cell power plants will soon be commercially available.
The stationary power fuel cell program is a worldwide program, with manufacturing facilities in the United States and demonstrations worldwide.
The program enjoys extensive industry support with over 40 percent industry cost-sharing. DOE's Office of Fossil Energy supported the early development of PAFC technology, which is now in the early stages of commercialization.
International Fuel Cells Corporation is currently offering 200-kilowatt PAFC power plants for sale worldwide. Supported by DOE's Fossil Energy R&D Program, MCFC technology development has been undertaken primarily by two companies, Energy Research Corporation and M-C Power, which have developed different approaches to MCFC module construction.
Both companies have advanced to the field demonstration stage: projects under way include a 250-kilowatt plant in San Diego, California, and a 2-megawatt plant in Santa Clara, California.
SOFC technology development has been led by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which has developed a unique tubular SOFC system. SOFC systems up to 25 kilowatts have been tested since 1992 in the United States and Japan, and a 25-kilowatt demonstration plant is currently under way in Southern California.
Field-testing of a 100-kilowatt plant is expected in 1996.
Full-size MCFC and SOFC power plants are expected to be commercially available shortly after 2000. The first plants will be smaller - up to 20 megawatts - and powered by natural gas.
Later, as market acceptance and manufacturing capacity increase, larger natural gas plants will be available, in the 50-megawatt to 100-megawatt range. Early in the next century, a transition will occur to coal-gaspowered fuel cells, particularly for larger sized utility plants.
Natural-gas-powered MCFC and SOFC power plants will have significantly impacted the Nation's generating capacity market by the year 2010, and coal-gas-powered MCFC and SOFC plants will follow with significant market penetration by 2010.
The use of coal-gaspowered fuel cell plants will increase as clean coal gas becomes available: the abundance of coal, coupled with its easy and safe transportability, make it the fuel of choice for long-term U.S. energy needs
The transition from natural gas to coal technologies dovetails with the anticipated effects of the Clean Air Act, which supports a near-term reduction in regulated emissions through the use of natural gas, while encouraging long-term utilization of coal, our most abundant fossil fuel.
Source:United states Energy Information Administration
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