Fuel cells are considered to be future energy and a very promising technology.
Despite the expectations the truth is that the fuel cells present advantages and disadvantages from their use and even in the manufacture.
Fuel cells are nowadays used in power plants with reduced power (less than a dozen MW).
They are placed close to the consumer equipment and can therefore be considered a distributed generation technology.
By investing in local (decentralized) production, investment in the construction of large power transmission lines, the protection of these and other auxiliary equipment, and the maintenance of these infrastructures is spared.
Another aspect of the economy is the operating costs , since the energy losses with decentralized production are considerably reduced in lines, in the transformers (elevators and downspouts), as well as in the quantity of protection equipment with decreasing number .
The use of hydrogen as fuel is very contradictory and controversial, we present a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of fuel cells known to date.
The Advantages of Fuel Cells
A fuel cell can convert more than 90% of the energy contained in a fuel into electrical energy and heat. In 1996, phosphoric acid fuel cells (CCAF) had an electrical conversion efficiency of 42%, with a high heat production;
Fuel cell power plants can be deployed at the points of supply, allowing the reduction of transport costs and energy losses in distribution networks;
The ability to co-generate heat, ie in addition to producing electricity, also produces hot steam;
Due to the fact that they do not have moving parts, fuel cells have higher confidence levels compared to internal combustion engines and combustion turbines;
Replacing conventional thermoelectric power plants that produce electricity from fossil fuels by fuel cells will improve air quality and reduce water consumption and wastewater discharge;
The emissions from a fuel cell power plant are ten times less than the more stringent environmental regulations. In addition, fuel cells produce a much lower level of carbon dioxide;
The nature of the operation allows the elimination of many sources of noise associated with conventional systems of energy production by means of steam;
Flexibility in planning, including modulation, results in financial and strategic benefits to fuel cell units and consumers;
Fuel cells can be engineered to operate from natural gas, gasoline, or other readily obtainable and transported fuels (available at low cost);
As a target technology of recent interest, fuel cells have a high potential for development.
Disadvantages of Fuel Cells
The need to use noble metals such as platinum which is one of the most expensive and rare metals on our planet;
The current high cost compared to conventional energy sources;
The high purity which the hydrogen feed stream must have in order not to contaminate the catalyst;
The problems and costs associated with the transport and distribution of new fuels, such as hydrogen;
The economic interests associated with the fossil fuel industries and the industrialized countries.