Life cycle energy and environmental impacts of a solid oxide fuel cell micro-CHP system for residential application.


Dipartimento di Ingegneria - Università degli Studi di Palermo, Viale delle Scienze Ed. 9, 90128 Palermo, (Italy). Electronic address: [Email]


Fuel cells are considered one of the key technologies to reach the ambitious European goal of a low carbon economy, by reducing CO2 emissions and limiting the production of other pollutants. The manuscript presents an assessment of the life cycle energy and environmental performances of a solid oxide fuel cell system for household applications using primary data from the manufacturing phase and experimental data for the start-up and operation phases. The Life Cycle Assessment methodology is applied, based on a functional unit of 1 MJ of exergy and includes the life cycle steps from the raw materials extraction to the maintenance. The results show a particular relevance of the operation stage on the impacts (about 98% of cumulative energy demand and more than 63% of about half of the examined environmental impacts), mainly due to the fuel supply and, focusing on climate change, to the CO2 emissions during the conversion of chemical energy into electricity. Manufacturing step is the main responsible of the remaining half of the impacts, with a contribution higher than 38%, mainly imputable to the stacks production. For almost half of the examined impact, a contribution of 20-30% is caused by the maintenance step, with a relevant contribution of the stacks and DC/DC booster substitutions. The analysis highlights that eco-design solutions of the assessed system can be traced in the improvement of the energy system efficiency and reduction of emissions during the operation, and in the increase of the durability of the system components, thus reducing the number of their substitutions. The results of a sensitivity analysis on the selection of the functional unit also clarified the importance of the recovery of the thermal energy generated by the fuel cells, in order to avoid concurrent energy generation from conventional sources.


Environmental impacts,Fuel cell,LCA,Primary energy consumption,SOFC,

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