Thispaper first reviewed the basic principle of fuel cell technology and thendiscussed the different aspects associated with the use of fuel cell technologyfor combined heat and power (CHP) systems in various application areas.
Theapplication areas discussed in this paper were single-family residential CHP,medium scale CHP for apartment buildings and CHP for hospitals. In each ofthese applications, the energy, environmental, and economic aspects resultingfrom the use of fuel cell CHP systems were studied relative to the conventionalsystems used in each application. Asfuel cells have higher efficiency and produce negligible pollutants duringtheir end use, the use of fuel cells reduced the energy consumption andemissions of pollutants by a significant amountin each of the considered application. Also, as fuel cell systems causepollutant emissions only during the fuel (hydrogen) production stage and notduring the actual use of the fuel cell, these emissions can further be loweredby using renewable sources for hydrogen production. However, economic factorsrelated to the use of fuel cells are not very attractive. In each of thediscussed applications, the cost of fuel cell systems was considerably more than the conventional systems respective tothat application. Therefore, the adoption of fuel cell technologies would onlybe agreeable by either increasing the cost of conventional energy sources or by reducing the cost of fuel cell systems. Thisliterature review reiterates the fact that fuel cells are the best bet toreplace the fossil fuel based conventional energy sources in a wide range ofapplications.
Fuel cell technology provides significant energy andenvironmental results that are almost impossible to obtain from fossil fuelbased energy sources. However, it is the economic factor that is obstructingthe transition from conventional sources towards the fuel cell technology. Ifadvancements can be done in this area and cost of fuel cells can be reduced atleast to figures which are closer to these conventional energy sources, itwould lead to an energy efficient and pollution free world. Inmy opinion, the two areas which need immediate and significant work are the development of cost-friendly catalyst insteadof platinum and development of cheaper hydrogen production and supply systems. Asthese are the major costs associated with a fuel cell system, reducing theseheavy costs can considerably lower the overall cost of the system.