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United States Patent Application 20180181154
Kind Code A1
PHILHOWER; Jason W. June 28, 2018

FUEL CELL POWER PLANT WITH REAL AND REACTIVE POWER MODES

Abstract

An illustrative example fuel cell power plant includes a cell stack assembly having a plurality of fuel cells configured to generate electricity based on an electrochemical reaction. The power plant includes a capacitor, a plurality of inverters, and at least one controller that is configured to control the plurality of inverters in a first mode and a second mode. The first mode includes the cell stack assembly associated with at least one of the inverters. A cell stack assembly and the associated inverter provide real power to a load external to the fuel cell power plant in the first mode. The second mode includes at least a second one of the inverters associated with the capacitor. The capacitor and the second one of the inverters selectively provide reactive power to or receive reactive power from a grid external to the fuel cell power plant in the second mode.


Inventors: PHILHOWER; Jason W.; (Glastonbury, CT)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

DOOSAN FUEL CELL AMERICA, INC.

South Windsor

CT

US
Family ID: 1000003202018
Appl. No.: 15/832860
Filed: December 6, 2017


Related U.S. Patent Documents

Application NumberFiling DatePatent Number
15060944Mar 4, 2016
15832860

Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: Y02B 90/14 20130101; H01M 2250/10 20130101; G05F 1/70 20130101; H01M 8/0494 20130101; H01M 16/003 20130101
International Class: G05F 1/70 20060101 G05F001/70; H01M 8/04828 20060101 H01M008/04828; H01M 16/00 20060101 H01M016/00

Claims



1. A fuel cell power plant, comprising: a cell stack assembly including a plurality of fuel cells configured to generate electricity based on an electrochemical reaction; a capacitor; a plurality of inverters; and at least one controller that is configured to control the plurality of inverters in a first mode and a second mode, the first mode including the cell stack assembly associated with at least one of the inverters, the cell stack assembly and the at least one of the inverters providing real power to a load external to the fuel cell power plant, the second mode including at least a second one of the inverters associated with the capacitor, the second one of the inverters and the capacitor selectively providing reactive power to or receiving reactive power from a grid external to the fuel cell power plant.

2. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, wherein the reactive power of the second mode is the only power output from the fuel cell power plant of the second mode that is external to the fuel cell power plant.

3. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, wherein more than one of the inverters is associated with the capacitor in the second mode.

4. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, wherein the capacitor is charged by the reactive power received from the grid in the second mode.

5. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, wherein the first mode includes the capacitor associated with at least one of the inverters; and the first mode includes the capacitor providing supplemental power output from the fuel cell power plant when there is an increase in a load demand on the fuel cell power plant.

6. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, wherein the real power is a low voltage power less than or equal to 600 kilowatts.

7. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, comprising a DC bus between the cell stack assembly and the plurality of inverters; and a switching device that is controlled by the controller to selectively couple the cell stack assembly, the capacitor, and selected ones of the plurality of inverters respectively to the DC bus.

8. The fuel cell power plant of claim 8, comprising an output configured to be coupled to a load external to the fuel cell power plant; an AC bus between the plurality of inverters and the output; and at least one switching device that is controlled by the controller to selectively couple selected ones of the inverters to the output.

9. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, wherein the capacitor is the only source of power supplied by the fuel cell power plant external to the fuel cell power plant in the second mode.

10. The fuel cell power plant of claim 1, wherein the second mode includes at least a first one of the inverters associated with the cell stack assembly, the first one of the inverters and the cell stack assembly providing power to at least one other component of the fuel cell power plant.

11. A method of operating a fuel cell power plant including a cell stack assembly, a capacitor, and a plurality of inverters, the method comprising: controlling the plurality of inverters in a first mode and a second mode; using the cell stack assembly and at least one associated one of the inverters for providing real power to a load external to the fuel cell power plant in the first mode; and using the capacitor and at least a second one of the inverters for selectively providing reactive power to or receiving reactive power from a grid external to the fuel cell power plant in the second mode.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein the reactive power of the second mode is the only power output from the fuel cell power plant in the second mode that is external to the fuel cell power plant.

13. The method of claim 11, wherein more than one of the inverters is associated with the capacitor in the second mode.

14. The method of claim 11, comprising charging the capacitor using the reactive power received from the grid in the second mode.

15. The method of claim 11, comprising providing supplemental power output from the fuel cell power plant using the capacitor and at least one of the inverters associated with the capacitor in the first mode when there is an increase in a load demand on the fuel cell power plant.

16. The method of claim 11, wherein the real power is a low voltage power less than or equal to 600 kilowatts.

17. The method of claim 11, wherein the capacitor is the only source of power supplied by the fuel cell power plant external to the fuel cell power plant in the second mode.

18. The method of claim 11, comprising using the cell stack assembly and at least one associated one of the inverters for providing power to at least one other component of the fuel cell power plant in the second mode.
Description



CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 15/060,944, which was filed on Mar. 4, 2016.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] This disclosure generally relates to fuel cell power plants. More particularly, this disclosure relates to a fuel cell power plant having real and reactive power modes.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Fuel cells are devices that generate electrical power based on an electrochemical reaction. Fuel cell power plants are known that include a cell stack assembly having a plurality of fuel cells for generating a desired amount of power.

[0004] Typical fuel cell power plants generate real power based on the output of the cell stack assembly. It is known, for example, to utilize a set of inverters for providing AC power output based on DC power generated by the cell stack assembly.

[0005] To the extent that known fuel cell power plants have reactive power only capabilities, those are typically limited to operating as a static VAR compensator.

SUMMARY

[0006] Illustrative example embodiments of this invention include a fuel cell power plant that has the capability of operating in a real power mode and a reactive power mode in which the only power output from the power plant is reactive power.

[0007] An illustrative example fuel cell power plant includes a cell stack assembly having a plurality of fuel cells configured to generate electricity based on an electrochemical reaction. The power plant includes a capacitor, a plurality of inverters, and at least one controller that is configured to control the plurality of inverters in a first mode and a second mode. The first mode includes the cell stack assembly associated with at least one of the inverters. The cell stack assembly and the associated inverter provide real power to a load external to the fuel cell power plant in the first mode. The second mode includes at least a second one of the inverters associated with the capacitor to selectively provide reactive power to or receive reactive power from a grid external to the fuel cell power plant.

[0008] An illustrative example method of operating a fuel cell power plant includes controlling a plurality of inverters in a first mode and a second mode. A cell stack assembly and at least one associated inverter is used for providing real power to a load external to the fuel cell power plant in the first mode. A capacitor and at least a second one of the inverters is used for selectively providing reactive power to or receiving reactive power from a grid external to the fuel cell power plant in the second mode.

[0009] Various features and advantages of at least one disclosed example embodiment will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following detailed description. The drawings that accompany the detailed description can be briefly described as follows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 schematically illustrated selected portions of a fuel cell power plant designed according to an embodiment of this invention operating in a first mode.

[0011] FIG. 2 schematically illustrates the fuel cell power plant of FIG. 1 operating in a second mode.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0012] Embodiments of this invention provide a fuel cell power plant with the ability to generate reactive power as the only output to support a local grid system, for example.

[0013] FIG. 1 schematically illustrates selected portions of a fuel cell power plant 20. A cell stack assembly (CSA) 22 includes a plurality of fuel cells (not specifically illustrated) that generate electrical power based on an electrochemical reaction. The fuel cells may take a variety of forms. For example, some fuel cells will be phosphoric acid fuel cells while others will be polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. Those skilled in the art who have the benefit of this description will be able to select an appropriate type of fuel cell and CSA arrangement to meet their particular needs.

[0014] In one example implementation, the fuel cell power plant 20 is a low voltage system because it provides a real power output that is less than 600 kilowatts. Example implementations include a real power output of 480 kilowatts or 440 kilowatts.

[0015] A plurality of inverters 24 are included for converting DC electrical power from the CSA 22 into real AC power to be provided to a load external to the fuel cell power plant 20. The illustrated example includes at least one switch 26 for selectively coupling a selected number of the inverters 24 with the CSA 22 over a DC bus 28. A controller 30 controls operation of the switch 26 and the inverters 24 to achieve a desired operation and output from the fuel cell power plant 20. The controller 30 also controls a switch 32 that selectively couples an AC bus 34 associated with the inverters 24 to an output 36 of the fuel cell power plant 20.

[0016] The fuel cell power plant 20 also includes a capacitor 38 and a plurality of loads associated with the operation of the fuel cell power plant schematically shown at 40. Example loads included in the schematic representation at 40 include pumps for circulating coolant or reactants and blowers associated with the fuel cell power plant 20.

[0017] In FIG. 1, the controller 30 controls operation of the inverters 24 according to a first mode of operation. In this example, the first mode corresponds to a real power mode of the fuel cell power plant 20. When it is desired to provide real AC power at the output 36, the controller 30 operates the switches 26 and 32 to selectively couple the cell stack assembly 22 with one or more of the inverters 24 to provide real AC power output at 36. The controller 30 in this example is programmed to control the inverters using known techniques for providing such power on the output 36. Limited reactive power may be provided in the first mode.

[0018] As schematically represented by the dashed lines in FIG. 1, the capacitor 38 is not involved in providing real AC power output at 36. There are times, however, during the first mode of operation when a transient load is experienced by the fuel cell power plant 20. This may occur, for example, when there is a relatively sudden increase in the power demand associated with the load external to the fuel cell power plant 20 or when there is a drop in available power from an external grid associated with the power plant 20. Under such conditions, the controller 30 controls the switch 26 to provide load step transition assistance using power from the capacitor 38. During the first mode of operation the capacitor 38 provides transient load support.

[0019] FIG. 2 schematically illustrates the fuel cell power plant 20 operating in a second mode in which the output at 36 is exclusively reactive power. In the second mode, the controller 30 controls the switches 26 and 32 and the inverters 24 so that at least one of the inverters 24 and the capacitor 38 provide the reactive power output at 36. The CSA 22 is not used for providing any electrical output external to the fuel cell power plant 20 in the second mode. As schematically represented by the dashed lines in FIG. 2, output from the CSA 22 provides power to the loads internal to the fuel cell power plant at 40 during the second mode of operation. In one example, there are seven inverters 24 with a first one of them used in the second mode for providing power from the CSA 22 to the loads at 40. The other six inverters 24 are utilized in association with the capacitor 38 for providing reactive power to or absorbing reactive power from a grid external to the fuel cell power plant 20.

[0020] The controller 30 controls operation of the inverters 24 associated with the capacitor 38 in the second mode to provide reactive power output to or to absorb reactive power from a grid external to the fuel cell power plant 20. Under both conditions, the capacitor 38 voltage is controlled by changing the phase angle of the inverters.

[0021] In the second mode, the portion of the DC bus 28 associated with the CSA 22 is isolated from the portion of the DC bus 28 associated with the capacitor 38. The controller 30 operates the switch 26 to realize the DC bus isolation. The AC bus 34 is similarly divided into a portion that is operative for providing grid output at 36 and another portion for providing power to the loads at 40. The controller 30 operates the switch 32 to realize such a division of the AC bus 34 to isolate the AC output based on the CSA 22 from the reactive power output based on the capacitor 38.

[0022] The inclusion of the capacitor 38 and the control of the inverters 24 and switches 26 and 32 allows for the fuel cell power plant 20 to operate in a first, real power mode and in a second, "reactive power only" mode where the output at 36 from the fuel cell power plant 20 is exclusively reactive power.

[0023] The preceding description is exemplary rather than limiting in nature. Variations and modifications to the disclosed examples may become apparent to those skilled in the art that do not necessarily depart from the essence of this invention. The scope of legal protection given to this invention can only be determined by studying the following claims.

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