Backup Energy Receives Standard

Aug 31, 2007

GENEVA—The International Electrotechnical Commission recently produced a new standard for stationary fuel cell power systems, IEC 62282-3-1, Stationary fuel cell power systems – Safety, which is particularly interesting in that it deals with conformity assessment issues that are vitally important in ensuring the best protection for the user and the environment.

Fuel cells are ideal as alternative energy sources—especially when used in conjunction with renewable energies that cannot be relied on to supply 100% uninterrupted power so that, in these cases when renewable energy diminishes, they can serve as a backup source.
Not long ago, fuel cells (FC) were largely considered as an area of research and development, but today they are fast becoming commercially viable products in their own right and, as a result, there is increasing need for standardization.

Since the new standard applies to stationary FC power systems, it covers those fuel cells that supply power from a fixed location, whether this be indoors or outdoors, commercial, industrial or residential. Stationary fuel cells can be used stand-alone or they can be integrated into other systems. Some of these fuel cells recuperate the heat that is generated, thus providing an additional source of energy. Finally, they can be designed to operate using a variety of input fuels such as natural gas, biomass, oil-refined hydrogen-rich organic compounds or fossil fuel sources and hydrogen or gaseous mixtures containing hydrogen gas.

IEC 62282-3-1 addresses situations that could potentially be risky, either to the people using a fuel cell or to the surroundings in which it is being operated. And, while it covers all known designs and constructions, the standard is not restrictive. It takes into account the highly innovative side to fuel cell development. Its publication paves the way for progress in this area of alternative energy sources. Indeed, in a few years’ time, we may come to take for granted the presence of fuel cells in both our homes and work places.

Technical Committee 105, Fuel cell technologies, which has produced this latest standard, is well-represented by all countries currently considering this technology as a viable new source of energy. They have a European secretariat and a Far Eastern Chairman and, with 15 participating countries and 12 observer countries, there are representatives from all over the world. These range from Australia through Canada, China and Europe to Japan, Korea, Thailand and the U.S.

The committee deals with many types of fuel cells. There are those that are used in stationary power plants, such as those covered by the new standard. There are others too that are specific to portable or micro fuel cell power systems for notebooks and mobile phones, for example.

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