In project POWER-UP, AFC Energy has manufactured, installed and operated an industrial-scale alkaline fuel cell (AFC) power plant in a commercial environment, and exported its electrical power output to the local power grid. This is the first time an alkaline fuel cell system has been demonstrated on a large-scale industrial scale anywhere in the world.

Operating data from the demonstration has been used to determine the system’s technical and environmental performance, total cost of ownership, and social and environmental impacts. The technical Milestones have been independently validated.

During this reporting period, RP4 spanning July 2016 to June 2017, the Partners have now finalised their contributions to the POWER-UP goals. AFC Energy’s 240kWe fuel cell system has been installed in Stade and successfully operated during and after the commissioning phase. A Power Purchase Agreement is in place that allows the electricity to be exported and sold to the local electricity grid of Stadtwerke Stade. The system has since been operated in a limited capacity to gain operational data and expertise and provide quantifiable progress against key technology metrics for both the alkaline fuel cell cartridge and Balance of Plant design.



The Consortium brings together expertise from four European countries.

  1. AFC Energy PLC (AFCEN) – Coordinator; Developer of fuel cell system
  2. Air Products (AIRP) – Site host, supplier of hydrogen
  3. G.B. Innomech Limited (INMC) – Automation of stack assembly/disassembly
  4. Zentrum für Brennstoffzellentechnik ZBT Gmbh (ZBT) – Verification of milestones, certification and numerical simulation
  5. Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI) – Life cycle and technical/economic analysis
  6. Federazione delle Associazioni Scientifiche e Tecniche – European Hydrogen Association (FAST-EHA) – Communications and dissemination



AFC Energy’s 240kWe fuel cell system at Stade is comprised of four key components:

  2. STACK

The electrodes are the main working element of the AFC system. One anode and one cathode form a fuel cell and it is this functional unit that, when supplied with a suitable environment, will perform the fuel cell reaction. Fuel cells are low voltage high current devices. Therefore, many must be linked together in series to achieve a suitable voltage that can be used by a power conditioning unit and exported to the electricity grid. This series of cells is known as a fuel cell stack. The AFCEN stack contains 101 fuel cells. The stack provides the operating environment for the fuel cells by delivering the hydrogen fuel, oxygen from air and electrolyte to the correct chambers while also transporting away the electricity, water, heat and unspent fuel.

The cartridge houses the stack and contains the basic controls and electronics. It provides the interface between the stack and balance of plant (BoP). The cartridge is designed not to be user serviceable.

The current AFCEN cartridge has a rated power of 10kWe.

The BoP houses 24 cartridges and provides utility functions by delivering, metering and controlling the air, hydrogen and electrolyte to and from each cartridge position. It contains storage tanks for the KOH solution electrolyte, the CO2 scrubbing medium, the control and monitoring system and the power electronics.

The BoP is located within a fit-for-purpose designed and built facility at the POWER-UP site in Stade, Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), Germany, where Air Products already operates an industrial scale plant for the conditioning of hydrogen originating from DOW Chemicals’ electrolysis process in the region. The associated facility includes:

  1. Pressure reduction panel for hydrogen supply, 200Bar to 0.5Bar
  2. Temperature and pressure compensated instrumentation measuring the quantity of Gaseous Hydrogen delivered to the Equipment Site
  3. 100mm diameter Hydrogen pipeline, including E&ICS cabling, from the pressure reduction panel to pilot plant housing
  4. Liquid Nitrogen Storage, Evaporator and associated equipment and back-up Nitrogen bottle packs
  5. Air blast Cooler
  6. HVAC for the pilot plant
  7. Transformer and local sub-station, with associated cabling and switch gear, for connection to Stadtwerke Stade managed MV power grid
  8. Pilot plant building housing the alkaline fuel cell systems and associated equipment, such as bulk Potassium Hydroxide 10m3 storage vessels, Instrument Air supply, associated piping, manifolds and cabling, plant control room and power conditioning equipment, within a ca. 330m2 surface area
  9. 2x 10m3 bulk process water storage vessels, with associated under-ground process water tank
  10. Office and storage containers
  11. Telephone cabling and mains potable water pipes

Significant resources were allocated to fuel cell manufacture. Production was scaled-up by >1,100% via the introduction of automation into fuel cell stack manufacture (INMC), and by implementing modern manufacturing techniques that help ensure the quality of the fuel cells is maintained (and improved) as volumes increase.

Two partners have provided independent verification of:

  • Key project milestones (ZBT)
  • Technical performance, environmental impacts, technical performance and cost of ownership (PSI)



Since end of June 2016, the pilot plant in Stade has continued being utilised to facilitate testing of the evolving AFC stack design and associated BoP modifications. Several fully populated stacks have been tested at Stade, with the results being analysed to help accelerate the development work undertaken to (i) improve the AFCEN fuel cell stack design and (ii) confirm and validate the required modifications to the Balance of Plant at Stade.

During late 2015 and early 2016, several opportunities were identified for improvement at the Stade pilot plant. The opportunities related to fuel cell stack and cartridge development were not directly relevant, as they were not funded under this Programme. In principle however, AFC Energy’s efforts have been focused on maintaining the Power output requirement of 10kWe/ stack (or 100W/ cell), while also increasing other performance metrics, e.g. efficiency (at 60% LHV of Hydrogen) and availability. Cost reduction opportunities via value engineering are also being explored, to reduce the overall levelised cost of electricity and unit cost of €/MWhe produced.

The Balance of Plant has been modified – to accommodate performance observations from operating in Stade – to e.g. optimise the circulation of fluids to and from the fuel cell cartridges. The associated process and mechanical engineering design, plus control and instrumentation work, and the preparation for implementation on the Stade BoP, has been the main technical focus of AFC Energy during the latter part of the reporting period.

This work has heavily capitalised on the project work of the first three reporting periods.



  • The final operating license from the local German authorities has been granted to the pilot fuel cell plant owner and operator, AFCEN.
  • Continued operation of the Stade plant has delivered further operating data and experience with not only the fuel cell cartridges and BoP, but also the extended infrastructure, including the H2 supply from AIRP.
  • Fuel cell manufacturing processes are being further improved, while also adapting to new stack design permutations.
  • The Life Cycle Assessment of energy supply from the alkaline fuel cell system has been concluded, undertaken by PSI and supported by AFCEN.
  • The Socio-Economic Analysis of the alkaline fuel cell system has been concluded, undertaken by PSI and supported by AFCEN.
  • A scientific paper, focusing on the “Comparative Risk Assessment with Focus on Hydrogen and Selected Fuel Cells: Application to Europe” has been prepared for publication by PSI accordingly.
  • Dissemination activities have continued, via e.g. attendance and presentations of Consortium representatives in industry events, in order to promote the messaging of the results of POWER-UP.


Success in this project is critical to achieving successful commercialisation of alkaline fuel cells at an industrial scale for the first time. Funding from the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (EU FCH JU: http://www.fch.europa.eu/) has brought this technology’s progression forward by at least three years, offering significant opportunities in today’s energy markets that have both an increased demand for technologies capable of increasing regions’ security of energy supply and are capable of addressing the grid management challenges arising from the last two decades’ widespread adoption of non-baseload renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar.

The alkaline fuel cell technology at the heart of the project belongs to UK-based AFC Energy. A number of pre-contractual agreements have been signed by AFC Energy to deliver multi-megawatts of electricity following POWER-UP. These agreements are evidence of the potential global demand for electricity from alkaline fuel cells, not excluding the thermal output and localised water production opportunities. POWER-UP is a stepping stone in the Coordinator’s transition from an R&D company to a fully-commercial business, which is well underway. Performance data from the POWER-UP trials in Stade have demonstrated the technical and commercial viability potential of the 240kWe system in subsequent, value-engineered, system iterations, and will be key to swiftly converting these agreements to commercial contracts.

Below are a few of the recently released announcements of AFC Energy projects.


A 1 – 1.5MWe fuel cell power plant at the industrial park where AFC are based in south-east England:



A 1MWe project with Covestro in Brunsbüttel, north-west Germany



The UK’s largest hydrogen fuel cell precinct at Peel’s Protos industrial park in the north of England, with a potential 35MWe to 50MWe.