A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that generates electricity by a chemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen. Since fuel cell generates low levels of noise and less than 1% of harmful gas while offering high energy efficiency, it is touted as a viable alternative to fossil fuel. In addition, because fuel cell facilities do not require large space, fuel cell is considered the most suitable energy source in large cities such as Seoul.
National Attention to Fuel Cell Technology and Adoption
Investment to Develop Fuel Cell Technology
Korea has heavily invested in the development of fuel cell technology. The first effort began back in 1985 when Korea imported a main body of a 5.9kW capacity phosphoric acid fuel cell from Japan for testing purposes. Soon, Korea began developing a 2kW-phosphoric acid fuel cell power generator as part of the nation’s 6-year development plan in 1987. In addition, Korea began a research on polymer fuel cell since 1996 while developing a 6kW fuel cell stack and system for residential application in 2001.
Basis for Fuel Cell Deployment
Another milestone was set in 2002 when the private sector succeeded in developing a highly efficient and more compact, 1-3kW FC-CHP (fuel cell & combined heat power) system. The system was further developed and applications for vehicles, homes, power generation, and compact and mobile power were made available. The outstanding progress helped form a budding market for fuel cell in Korea.
In 2008, the Korean government announced an ambitious plan of 1 Million Green Home Project in its 60th year anniversary of the country’s founding. The project aims to establish as many as 1 million households in Korea to generate energy through renewable energy sources. As a result of vigorous efforts to realize the plan, 19,224 households across the country produced 10,157 TOE of energy in 2009 from renewable energy sources including fuel cell.
Expansion of Fuel Cell Deployment
The government’s support in the form of FIT (2006-2011) and RPS (since 2012) have helped fuel cell to be widely adopted in Korea. As of the end of 2014, there are 22 fuel cell power plants with generation capacity 154 MW.
Seoul at the Forefront of Fuel Cell Deployment
In line with the central government’s green initiative, the Seoul government announced in April 2007 the Seoul Eco-Friendly Energy Declaration. Seoul pledged a strong commitment for energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy and climate change response. Specific targets of the plan include increasing the share of renewable energy generation to 2% by 2010, 10% by 2020, 20% by 2030 and 700 MW of power generation from fuel cell technology.
Seoul Raises Power Generation from Renewable Energy Sources
Seoul constructed a 2.4MW fuel-cell power generation plant in Sanggye in December 2009, and another same capacity plant in Sangam in November 2010, followed by a 100kW plant in Children’s Grand Park in Gwangjin-gu in February 2012. Furthermore, Seoul’s new Guideline on Calculation of Energy Generated from Renewable Energy Facility set in July 2013 provides an institutional framework for new construction of residential and commercial buildings of over 500m2 to install renewable energy generators such as geothermal, PV and fuel cell.
Leveraging Private Sector Capital
Seoul has utilized the central’s government-initiated RPS as part of the city’s One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative since April 2012. With this, Seoul is making use of idle land such as water reuse centers and subway trains garage space while focusing on leveraging private capital to get the greatest possible benefits.
To this end, a 19.8MW fuel cell power plant was constructed in October 2014 using idle land in Goduk and another 20MW fuel cell power plant will be constructed at World Cup Park’s waste management facility by the first half of 2015.
In addition, a 30MW fuel cell power plant is to be constructed in a water reuse center in Magok, one that will be the largest fuel cell park of its kind in Seoul. The facility is expected to produce 236 GWh per year, enough to meet the electricity needs of 65,000 households every year. It should also be able to produce 12 Gcal of heat, enough to serve district heating to 10,000 homes in Seoul.
Expansion of Fuel Cell Adoption for Large Buildings
Seoul applied 6% minimum requirements of renewable energy use for all newly-constructed, large-scale buildings in Seoul. In 2014, the requirement was strengthened to 12%, facilitating the widespread adoption of fuel cells in buildings from 1kW to some hundreds kW. Seoul plans to continue to strengthen the minimum requirement to 15% by 2015 and 18% by 2018.
Seoul’s Renewable Energy Target
By adopting more fuel cell, Seoul hopes to use renewable sources to generate enough power to meet the energy demands of 420,000 households by 2020. To materialize the plan, Seoul formulated the second phase of One Less Nuclear Power Plant in April 2014, under which Seoul will build the decentralized system of fuel cell facilities with 195MW generation capacity.
When the construction of power plants in Goduk, Noel and Seonam are completed as planned, the total capacity of fuel cell generation in Seoul will be 75MW. This should enable Seoul to raise its energy self-sufficiency rate from the current 0.7% to 1.2%, a two-fold jump. This accounts for power generation of 590 GWh, enough to meet electricity needs of 160,000 households as well as 300,000 Gcal heat to meet heating demands of 30,000 households.
The SMG is committed to extensive research on potential fuel cell deployment in energy-hogging buildings and those located around district energy pipelines while commissioning researches to analyze future directions and potentials of fuel cell. Its focus on research should help Seoul expand the basis of wider fuel cell adoption and formulate a long-term roadmap to achieve its cause.