(Invited) Benchmarking Transformational Energy Technologies

Thursday, 28 May 2015: 08:05
Conference Room 4B (Hilton Chicago)
B. D. James, W. G. Colella, and J. M. Moton (Strategic Analysis Inc.)
Discussion of emerging energy conversion technologies is often made more difficult by conflicting terminology, assumptions, and perspectives of researchers who are often in different scientific specialty areas. Furthermore, researchers tend to describe their work in terms of the physical parameters they are able to measure in the laboratory, whereas policy developers and the general public tend to speak in terms of top-level system performance and economics. Consequently, there is often less than effective communication between researchers in different specialty areas, and between researchers and public policy developers. Development of a common framework to discuss all low-carbon energy conversion technologies would facilitate the transfer of ideas and foster more rapid development.

Strategic Analysis Inc. (SA) has conducted a variety of techno-economic analyses of emerging low-carbon energy conversion technologies for the Department of Energy covering a range of hydrogen production technologies including electrolysis (Alkaline, Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM), Solid Oxide (SO)), photo-electrochemical (PEC) (electrode and slurry based systems), biological, and solar to hydrogen conversion (STCH). Additionally, SA has examined fuel cell systems (PEM, SO) and fuel-cell/electrolyzer regenerative systems.  Examination of these systems grants SA an excellent vantage point to classify the similarities and differences between the systems and their corresponding performance and economic metrics.  For instance, all the solar systems utilize sunlight as the primary input energy source. However, performance is typically specified using the full light spectrum energy for photovoltaic (PV) arrays , using only the photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) spectrum for bio systems, and only the energy of direct light (not diffuse) for concentrating PV arrays. Thus all three systems would report a “% efficiency”, where the performance metrics are not directly comparable.

The objective of this presentation will be to discuss the common performance and economic metrics that apply to most/all low-carbon energy conversion technologies so as to allow easy and appropriate comparisons of the technologies. An effort will be made to chart a direct path between system level performance and economic parameters that policy makers and the general public find most useful, with the laboratory and scientific metrics that researchers typically use to discuss their work. From this, researchers will have a better holistic understanding of how their particular efforts would translate into system-level performance and a heighted awareness of negative factors that might sabotage the overall economics of the system.