Panasonic and Tokyo Gas have continued joint development of their "Ene-Farm" home fuel cell unit, which became the world's first commercialized fuel cell system targeted at household heating and electricity generation when it went on sale in Japan in May 2009. The latest model is aimed at use in condominiums and features a number of modifications to ensure the units meet the more stringent installation standards placed on those buildings.
Like previous Ene-Farm units, the new model uses a fuel processor to extract hydrogen from the city gas supply and react it with oxygen from the atmosphere to generate heat that is then used to generate electricity as well as supply hot water.
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By increasing the airtightness of the unit and thickening the exterior panels, the companies have made it possible for the new fuel cell to be installed in a condominium's pipe shaft in the open hallway. Pipe shafts run vertically through condominium floors and house water and gas pipes, while open hallways are hallways with residential units on one side and exterior space on the other.
The legs of the unit have been strengthened to improve earthquake resistance, while the exhaust structure has been integrated into a single outlet to improve wind resistance and allow operation in high winds of up to 58 knots (108 km/h / 67 mph) to make it possible to install the unit in the upper floors of a multi-story condo.
Capable of generating between 250 and 700 W, Panasonic and Tokyo Gas claim the new Ene-Farm fuel cell for condominiums can reduce primary energy consumption by 37 percent and cut CO2 emissions by 49 percent compared to sourcing electricity from thermal power plants and heating water using city gas. The companies estimate that = this could add up to savings of 30,000 to 40,000 yen (US$305 to $420) on an annual utility bill and reduce annual CO2 emissions by around one ton.
Tokyo Gas plans to release the new fuel cell for condominiums in Japan from April 1, 2014 and is aiming for sales of 500 units over the following year. It has already had interest from a couple of real estate companies that are keen to adopt the new fuel cell in two properties comprising a total of 456 units.