Bosch moves into the power station business using UK technology

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Bosch is to invest hundreds of millions of euros into solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) for distributed power stations.

The SOFC systems are based around the SteelCell technology developed by Ceres Power in the UK. Bosch is a major investor and has built several prototype systems through a staff of 250 people.

“We see the highly efficient solid oxide fuel cell as an essential element of a sustainable energy supply. To bring it about, we are pooling Bosch expertise from across several divisions,” says Dr. Christian Fischer, the Bosch board of management member responsible for the Energy and Building Technology business sector. “With stationary fuel-cell systems, Bosch is establishing a new business field in which development, manufacturing, sales, and service come from a single source,” Fischer continued. “Together with our partner Ceres Power, we are now taking the next important step toward full-scale production.”

The company is aiming for production of 200MW a year by 2024 at its manufacturing sites in Bamberg, Wernau, and Homburg, as well as its development sites in Stuttgart-Feuerbach and Renningen.

One intended application of SOFC technology is in small, distributed, connectivity-enabled power stations, which can then be used in cities, factories, trade and commerce, data centres, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. SOFC cells are easily fuelled by natural gas rather than requiring hydrogen gas. The systems have an efficiency of over 85 percent despite being small enough to power individual buildings such as data centres.

“Depending on energy supply requirements, in the future any number of plants with the same output can be interconnected. This interconnection creates virtual power plants that work together to supply power as and where it is required,” said Dr. Wilfried Kölscheid, who is responsible for stationary fuel cells at Bosch.

Bosch estimates that the market for decentralized power generation will reach €20bn by 2030. The German government has recently announced €9bn of support for hydrogen and other clean energy technologies to help de-carbonise society.

In January 2020, Bosch acquired a stake of around 18 percent in Ceres and the alliance has been extended to include the phases leading up to full-scale production in 2024 in a £23m extension of the deal.

“We are proud to have reached this milestone in collaboration with our important partner Bosch. Combining innovative Ceres technology with Bosch’s manufacturing expertise made it possible to create pioneering stationary fuel-cell systems that will help overcome the global challenges of the energy transition,” said Phil Caldwell, CEO of Ceres Power. “We’re looking forward to continuing our close collaboration with Bosch.”

Ceres has other deals with Weichai in China for 30kW range extender system for electric buses as well as a combined heat and power (“CHP”) system in the Japanese market by Miura. It has a 2MW advanced manufacturing pilot facility running in Redhill, UK

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