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Design and Performance Assessment of a Solar-to-hydrogen System Thermally Assisted by Recovered Heat from a Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell


Solar-to-hydrogen plants are predominantly based on steam electrolysis. Steam electrolysis requires water, electricity and heat. The excess electric energy is generally converted into hydrogen via an electrolyser. The use of waste heat in hydrogen generation process promises energy efficiency improvement and production fluctuation reductions. This work investigates the techno-economic performance of the proposed system which recovers the waste heat from molten carbonate fuel cell and uses solar energy to produce steam. Comparison of thermally assisted solar system with corresponding solar system is done. The fuel cell provides 80% of the required thermal energy. The solar PV array provides the required electricity. The thermally assisted solar-to-hydrogen system annual energy efficiency (38.5 %) is higher than that of solar- to- hydrogen system. The investment cost of the proposed system is 2.4 % higher than that using only solar parabolic trough collector for the same required amount of heat. The advantage is that the fuel cell simultaneously produces electricity and heat. The recovery of waste heat allows getting an annual overall efficiency of 63.2 % for the molten carbonate fuel cell. It yields 2152 MWh of electricity per year. The 1 MW electrolysers annually generates 74 tonnes of hydrogen.

Related subjects: Production & Supply Chain

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