World's Largest Hydrogen-Powered Town Starts in Japan

japan hydrogen town maebaru city fukuoka fuel cell photo

Courtesy Fukuoka Pref.

Some 150 homes in the housing communities in Maebaru City, of southern Japan's Fukuoka Prefecture, are running on hydrogen fuel cells, as part of a pilot project testing the feasibility of such systems for households. The “Fukuoka Hydrogen Town" model project is the beginning of what organizers say will be the largest hydrogen-powered city in the world.

Starting in October 2008, Nippon Oil Corporation and Seibu Gas Energy Co. began installing 150 ENE FARM power generation units in houses across Maebaru, reports Japan for Sustainability. These are 1 kW-class, residential fuel cell co-generation systems developed by Nippon Oil Corporation, utilizing hydrogen in liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The systems can cover about 60 percent of a home's power consumption and about 80 percent of its hot water supply.

In total, energy consumption will be reduced by about 30 percent over conventional systems, and carbon dioxide emissions will be cut by up to 30 percent. The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is subsidizing the effort, which is also known as the Hy-Life Project. By 2015, Nippon Oil hopes to lower the price of its household fuel cell systems to around 500,000 yen [US$5,500] and raise sales to 40,000 units a year.

Mike recently highlighted residential fuel-cell technology as a costly but promising departure from the fuel cell applications we're used to -- cars, bikes, airplanes.

While there are still many downsides, including high costs for now, residential fuel cells - even if the hydrogen is reformed from natural gas - can be very efficient. Some models by Tokyo Gas have a combined efficiency of 87%. Compared to burning natural gas for heat, you get the benefit of also producing electricity, and compared to burning natural gas for electricity in a power plant, you avoid transmission losses by producing the power where you need it. This can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions:


via Japan for Sustainability

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