World’s Largest Fuel Cell Plant Opens in South Korea

The Gyeonggi Green Energy facility, a 59-MW fuel cell park in Hwasung City, South Korea, commenced commercial operation on Feb. 19. The plant consists of 21 2.8-MW hydrogen fuel cells supplied by FuelCell Energy of Danbury, Conn.

The 5.1-acre facility in Gyeonggi Province, along the country’s northwest coast, is owned and operated by POSCO Energy, the nation’s largest independent power producer. Construction began in late 2012 and was completed earlier this year. The fuel cells run on natural gas converted to hydrogen and also provide heat to the local district heating system.

“The scale of this installation is contributing to the power and heating needs of an urban population and generating the electricity in a highly efficient and ultra-low emission profile that supports our national renewable portfolio standard,” said Tae-Ho Lee, CEO of Gyeonggi Green Energy.

POSCO and FuelCell Energy are planning another fuel cell project adjacent to a railroad depot operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp. That 19.6-MW facility, composed of seven 2.8-MW fuel cells, will provide power to the depot and the local grid, in addition to district heating. Commercial operation is expected by the end of this year. The facility is the first of several fuel cell projects planned to comprise a total of 230 MW in the Seoul area.

As with the Gyeonggi facility, the fuel cells at the Seoul park will be manufactured by POSCO under license from FuelCell Energy as part of POSCO’s drive to position itself in the Korean clean energy market. POSCO is currently building a fuel cell factory that is expected to begin operations in 2015 and have a capacity of 100 MW per year.

South Korea has been struggling to modernize and diversify its power sector for a number of years. It is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, and has mandated that its largest utilities obtain 10% of their energy from renewables by 2022.

—Thomas W. Overton is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).