In early 2015 we installed a 1.5kWp micro combined heat and power (mCHP) plant in Cathedral House. Roughly the size of a washing machine the device uses innovative hydrogen fuel cell technology to electrochemically convert gas into electricity and heat at very high efficiency – up to 85% combined. The electrical power generated now meets 80%+ of the annual demand from Becket Hall and the GF Cathedral Innovation Centre offices, whilst the useful heat provides hot water for the toilets. The unit not only produces energy at lower cost (typically 25-30% lower than grid) but also earns feed-in tariff income (FITs) , which we have been 'recycling' into LED lighting works.
As the unit runs 24/7 at a constant power it is displacing dirty/inefficient coal and gas fired power from the grid for the majority of the time. Furthermore as there is no combustion of gas the NOx and SOx emissions are negligible – thus adding a further air quality benefit, increasingly important in Portsmouth.
Fuel cell technology is not new, it has been used on many space missions, however it is now growing in popularity globally for stationary and transport applications. It is also now appearing in school chemistry syllabus materials, below is a short video courtesy of the Hydrogen Hub.