An Australian company called Ceramic Fuels Cells (CFU) is the developer of a home electricity system called Bluegen. Bluegen is a very efficient small scale generator that can power your home using natural gas.
A Bluegen appliance is similar in size to a washing machine and virtually silent when in operation. A Bluegen unit can deliver electricity 24 hours a day by taking natural gas from the grid and turning it into electricity in a highly efficient process that also produces hot water. Over the course of a year the Bluegen can produce over 17000 kW hours of electricity. With the average Australia home requiring around 6000 – 7000 kW hours Bluegen can provide ample power for one home and the excess power can be sold back into the grid.
In September 2011 the ASX listed company Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited received an order for 100 Bluegen units, from its new Dutch partner Zestiq, to be delivered over the next 12 months. With the units retailing for around $40000 in Australia this is a large order.
Ceramic Fuel Cells research started after initial CSIRO research conducted around 1993 and since then the company has spent around $250 million dollars researching and developing the solid oxide fuel technology used by the Bluegen unit. The result is the ability to convert natural gas into electricity at the highest efficiency currently known to man. The electrical efficiency of the Bluegen unit sits on around 60%, grid delivered household and commercial electricity has an efficiency of around 20%.
Ceramic Fuel Cells listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2004 and on the London Stock Exchange in 2006. Ceramic Fuel Cells is predicting it will be cash flow positive by the end of 2012. The European market is a big part of the Ceramic Fuel Cells plan. In 2010 they opened a new factory in Germany to produce the solid oxide fuel cell stacks that go into the Bluegen units. The Bluegen units are supported by British and German governments with Germany offering a cash incentive to people who install the units to power their homes.
One of the major stumbling blocks for the units being rolled out in Australia is the utility companies. The excess power being sold back into the grid is a big financial advantage of the Bluegen units and a reasonable price needs to be offered by the electricity companies in Australia to buy the power back. Once a reasonable price is offered to encourage households to feed excess electricity back into the grid we may see more of these units installed nationwide. Another reason for the slow uptake in Australia is because the unit runs on natural gas it doesn’t quality for the renewable energy scheme, even though it lowers a household’s carbon footprint.
According to Ceramic Fuel Cells managing director Brendan Dow, “We’re being parochial, we’re a proud Australian company and we’d like to see this Australian technology succeed here in our home market but ultimately if we cannot succeed because there are a number of barriers that are in our way then we’ll do as we’re currently doing which is take the technology to the rest of the world.”
The Bluegen appliance may become a common Australian household feature in the future.
Checkout this Inside Business story on the Ceramic Fuels Cells Bluegen.