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Toyota, NREL advance megawatt-scale fuel cell systems

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Toyota Motor North America (Toyota) is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to construct, install, and assess a 1-megawatt (MW) proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cell power generation system at NREL’s Flatirons Campus in Arvada, Colorado.

This three-year, $6.5 million cooperation is partially sponsored by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office and supports DOE’s H2@Scale vision for clean hydrogen across many applications and economic sectors.

Multiple Toyota fuel cell modules are integrated into the 1 MW fuel cell system to produce responsive stationary electricity. NREL has shown the use of an automotive fuel cell system to produce carbon-free power for a data center through a previous cooperation. This new technology is approximately 15 times more powerful and is capable of producing both direct current and alternating current.

Toyota drew on its over 25 years of fuel cell development experience while designing the 1 MW system, extending its knowledge from the market for light-duty fuel cell electric vehicles. Toyota provides the fuel cell modules and collaborates with systems integrator Telios on the design, balance-of-plant, and construction of the NREL-bound system. Toyota has created an integrated control system to regulate the operation of the fuel cell modules in order to maximize system longevity and efficiency. As a drop-in substitute for conventional generators, the system displays a streamlined design.

Researchers at NREL will test the operational limits of the fuel cell system design in order to detect performance constraints and degradation over time, thereby creating significant real-world data that will aid in the development of future applications. Research and development will also analyze the performance of the system when combined with energy storage and renewable energy generation systems, such as photovoltaic solar and wind.

The fuel cell generator is a component of the Advanced Research on Integrated Energy Systems (ARIES) megawatt-scale hydrogen system that is being planned and installed at the Flatirons Campus of NREL. The versatile system, which consists of a 1.25-MW PEM electrolyzer, 600-kg hydrogen storage system, and 1-MW fuel cell generator, provides a platform for demonstrating megawatt-scale direct renewable hydrogen synthesis, energy storage, power generation, and grid integration.

This summer, the fuel cell generating system will be installed, and the entire system will be activated later in 2022.

Nedim Husomanovic

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