The Nikkei reports that Fuji Electric Co. is marketing a fuel cell power plant that can run on either city gas (predominantly methane) or propane. This is to allow the unit to operate as a reliable power supply for hospitals, even if the supply of gas from the grid is interrupted. Switching from one gas to the other can be done in around 30 seconds.
Fuji Electric manufactures an in-house 100 kW phosphoric acid fuel cell system. It has sold a number of units in Japan to date and this year started marketing its system in Europe. Earlier this year, it also supplied a unit for a smart grid demonstration project in the USA.
Through opening up new markets and applications for its product, Fuji aims to boost sales to 50 units a year. This flexible fuel system is being specifically targeted at the Japanese market, where the Environmental Ministry now funds half the capital investment to set up efficient power generation at private hospitals. Data centres are also an area of focus, as the Fuji system produces a byproduct air stream with a low enough oxygen content (~15%) that it prevents combustion and can be used for fire suppression. For this application Fuji is working with N2telligence, which specialises in fire prevention systems for data centres.
The popularity of fuel cells as stationary power systems is growing in Japan, particularly with the uncertainty around electricity supply that the country has been experiencing since the Great East Japan Earthquake last March. Fuji Electric provided one of its fuel cells to the disaster headquarters of Miyagi Prefecture and later donated this to Tohoku Fukushi University.