FuelCell energy, Inc. has announced that it has been awarded a $3m contract from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) division of the US Department of Energy (DOE) to advance the commercialisation of cost-effective and clean long-duration energy storage.

The project will further develop FuelCell Energy’s advanced solid oxide cell technology capable of alternating between electrolysis and fuel cell power generation mode (reversible SOFC, or RSOFC) in an energy storage application. RSOFC systems can produce hydrogen (H2) or other carbon-neutral fuels in electrolysis mode and later convert the stored fuel to power in power generation mode. This project was awarded under ARPA-E’s Renewable Energy to Fuels through utilisation of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) programme.

Tony Leo, Vice-President of Advanced Applications & Technology Development for FuelCell Energy, said, “FuelCell Energy is H2 reversible solid oxide systems for energy storage, and this project will further advance the initiative including the evaluation of our reversible fuel cell’s ability to produce and use H2 and other fuels.”

“The capability of this fuel cell configuration to produce and consume H2 or other carbon-neutral fuels for energy storage, and to cleanly and efficiently generate electricity when needed by the electric grid offers exciting possibilities for integration of intermittent renewable power,” Leo added.

The use of reversible fuel cells to efficiently produce H2 or other carbon-neutral fuels offers unique opportunities for efficient energy storage, particularly for the long-duration storage applications that will become important as penetration of intermittent renewable power increases. Discharge duration can be increased by adding more fuel storage, without the need to increase the number of fuel cells, enhancing the affordability of extended duration energy storage.

“Critical to any storage solution is affordability, which is why the high round trip efficiency of this reversible fuel cell and the utilisation of a cost-effective energy storage medium for long durations is so compelling,” concluded Leo.