ANSI - American National Standards Institute
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Standards Pave Way for Fuel Cell Technology

New York, Aug 07, 2003

Over six months after President Bush mentioned support for the development of fuel cell technology in his State of the Union address, talk of the future of fuel cells is still buzzing in a variety of industries, from automobile manufacturers to energy distributors to micro-technology developers. Several standards developers, in the U.S. and internationally, have begun fuel cell standardization projects that have the potential to quicken market acceptance of new fuel cell products and protect the consumers who use them.

One area in which fuel cells have already been put to use around the world is stationary power generation. In the New York metropolitan area, organizations that have installed such systems include the NYPD’s Central Park Police precinct, the Conde Nast Building, the New York Aquarium, St. Vincent’s and the North Central Bronx Hospitals, and the Hunts Point, Oakwood Beach, and Red Hook Wastewater Treatment Plants. According to the non-profit organization Fuel Cells 2000, fuel cells can reduce facility energy service costs by 20% to 40% (over conventional supply methods) in large building systems. Further, stationary fuel cells are particularly useful in waste treatment facilities because they can utilize the methane gas that is a byproduct of waste treatment in order to generate power.

CSA America, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, is responsible for one prominent fuel cell standard in the United States, ANSI Z21.83 1998, Fuel Cell Power Plants. In addition, CSA is developing CSA FC1-200x, Stationary Fuel Cell Power Systems, which is being considered as an American National Standard. FC1 covers the safe operation, construction and performance of packaged stationary fuel cell power systems that do not exceed 10 MW of power output and are used with hydrogen gas, gaseous or liquid hydrocarbon fuel, or zinc particulate. Similarly, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed ANSI/NFPA 853-2000 (with an updated version currently under review), which also applies to the installation of stationary fuel cell power plants, including a singular prepackaged self-contained power plant unit; a combination of prepackaged self-contained units, and power plant units comprised of two or more factory matched modular components.

Also under development by CSA America and pending approval as American National Standards are CSA FC2, Residential Fuel Cell Power Generators, and CSA FC3-200x, Portable Fuel Cell Power Systems. According to Fuel Cells 2000, residential fuel cell power generators can be connected to the local electric grid to provide supplemental service or can stand alone to provide service to areas that are without power lines. Fuel cells operate silently in contrast to noisy gas-powered generators, and the heat that they produce as a byproduct of their electricity-producing chemical reaction can be used for water or space heating. FC3-200x applies to portable indoor and/or outdoor fuel cell power systems with outputs of 600V or less. Such systems could be used to power nearly any appliance, from yard equipment to computers to lights, in a way that gas-powered generators are commonly used today.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) are ANSI members and accredited standards developers who have standards that address additional areas of fuel cell technology. UL has a new project titled UL 2265-200x, Standard for Safety for Replacement Fuel Cell Power Units for Appliances, that covers stand alone fuel cell power units that can be connected to appliances “by a cord and plug arrangement or other connection means such as termination connectors integrated into the casing of the replacement fuel cell power unit.” Small portable fuel cells could eventually replace batteries in devices such as cell phones and laptops, power tools, and even hearing aids. SAE is also helping to ensure the safety of fuel cell use with SAE J 2578, Recommended Practice for General Fuel Cell Vehicle Safety, which provides mechanical and electrical system guidelines for designing fuel cell vehicles for use on public roads.

Internationally, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee 105 for fuel cell standards met in late June 2003 to discuss drafts of standards for several aspects of fuel cell technology. The drafts, part of the IEC 62282 family of standards, cover terminology for fuel cell technologies, fuel cell modules, stationery fuel cell power plants (their safety, test methods, and installation), fuel cell systems for propulsion and auxiliary power units, and portable fuel cell appliances. According to a report from the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer that participates in IEC TC 105, the committee realizes that it will meet challenges in developing international standards for certain fuel cell uses due to varying installation codes in different countries, but the group hopes to develop standards that allow local guidelines to still play a role in their respective jurisdictions.

For more information on fuel cell technology and its applications, the following websites may be helpful: U.S. Department of Defense; the National Fuel Cell Research Center; the U.S. Fuel Cell Council; and Fuel Cells 2000.

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