No. of Recommendations: 1
I (metallurge) said,

<<To diverge a little from the original subject, when you're on-grid with a fuel cell, in 30 states, you can to some degree or another sell excess electrical production back to the utility, just like the solar and wind power folks can do. Or, use the electrical grid as your storage device in the air conditioning example. Size the fuel cell for average monthly usage. Feed electricity into the grid at night, spinning the meter backwards. Draw needed excess capacity from the grid later during your peak demand, spinning the meter forwards. >>

... to which Seattle Pioneer responded,

You want to do all this to save a MAXIMUM of 10¢ per hour, ignoring the cost of buying, installing, maintaining and fueling this equipment? Please be serious.

The local paper had an article about a college house that had been converted to minimize use of outside energy sources with all kinds of gadgets, including a television set that was powered by a foot powered generator. There were three college students living in the house and the article noted that there was a staff of 14 tradesmen employed in maintaining all the gadgets! I wonder how much energy THEY use in their lives?

As a repairman, I have a pretty good idea of the ability of people to maintain technical equipment. I would suggest that a fuel cell arrangement of the type you describe would be appropriate for an electrician or engineer to install as a hobby, but would be a financial black hole for someone to install who couldn't do most or all of his own installation and maintenance work. And I mean do the work COMPETENTLY.

... to which I (metallurge) say,

Well, that's 10¢ per kW per HOUR (actually, if you live in CA, it's going to be substantially more, eh?) I don't know what your electrical bill is like per month, but I'll wager there are a lot of people out there with $200 per month bills or more. Mine is. This entire sum is available for the purchase of power, whether it be from a fuel cell plus fuel or "the grid" (or both!) What about a company with a $10,000 per month electric bill who can be shut down by a blackout? Do they have the budget to invest in something different than "the grid"?

Usability, reliability, and maintainability are certainly issues key to any technology which seeks to replace an entrenched system. I think a good computerized monitoring system for fuel cells (like is in cars--"Check Engine Soon") is going to be needed. I'm surmising that providers of fuel cells will include installation and service calls in the package, so it will likely be their financial risk, not the consumers'.

Lastly, I'd like to state that fuel cells are really pretty simple devices. The chemistry is simple. There are no moving parts outside of things like blowers and small pumps. There are very few different subcomponents. They can be made very modular and servicable. They can be made redundant. The most complexity is in the electrical side (DC -> AC conversion, and line matching), but this portion is already pretty mature technology--look at the reliability of even inexpensive battery backup (UPS) systems.

Look, fuel cells aren't going to replace everything else in the next week. But an awful lot of knowledgable people and an awful lot of big companies are betting that fuel cells are on the cusp of explosive growth right now.

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