Fujikura, NTT Docomo Test Fuel Cell at Solar-powered Base Station

2017/12/23 15:32
Sousuke Kudou, technical writer
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Solar panels at the clean base station (source: NTT Docomo)
The fuel cell system (source: NTT Docomo)

Fujikura Ltd and NTT Docomo Inc jointly started a test to apply a fuel cell system (rated power: 1kW) using a direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) method being developed by Fujikura to NTT Docomo's "green base station."

Green base station is a facility equipped with solar panels. It can be independently operated at the time of disaster without power from a power grid. By operating the DMFC in conjunction with the solar power generation system, the base station can independently operate for more than a week.

The DMFC directly converts the chemical reaction between methanol and oxygen (in the air) into electricity, realizing high-efficiency power generation. It does not generate toxic substances and is very quiet. Its rated output and voltage are 1.0kW and DC48V, respectively. The size of the system is 137L (460 x 460 x 650mm), which is 1/20 the size of conventional large-size stationary fuel cell systems.

The DMFC features a high portability. It can be installed for small base stations located in narrow spaces, on the roofs of buildings, etc and carried to a disaster-hit area in an emergency. When applied to a base station, it can be operated for four days (if there are five units and 200L of fuel).

In the joint test, the DMFC is operated for long hours in consideration of a disaster at a green base station that NTT Docomo operates in Nankoku City, Kochi Prefecture. The solar power generation system and the fuel cell are operated in conjunction with each other in the aim of testing the effectiveness and reliability of the fuel cell as a measure against disasters. The test will end Sept 30, 2018.

As part of their efforts for safety and security, Fujikura and NTT Docomo aim to commercialize an environmentally-friendly system in the 2020s through (1) the development of compact, eco-friendly fuel cell systems that can be used for powering base stations and charging terminals in case of emergency and (2) a research for producing fuel (e.g. methanol) for the system from renewable energy.