Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU) logo

Robust, efficient long term remote power supply - FCH-02-3-2018
Deadline: Apr 24, 2018  

 Start Up
 Energy Efficiency
 International Cooperation
 Aerospace Technology
 Electronics and Microelectronics
 Industrial Manufacturing
 Climate Sciences

Specific Challenge:

Fuel cell based power generation has a valuable business case for off-grid power generation in certain special markets such as powering the gas and oil infrastructure in remote regions with harsh climate conditions (-40 to +50 °C) and the continuous power supplies of telecommunication equipment (e.g. telecom base stations). This market is dominated by diesel generators today in accessible regions and by thermoelectric generators with very low efficiency in very remote areas. Both of these solutions have high environmental impact. Fuel cell based systems due to their higher efficiency and low maintenance requirements can offer significant primary energy and carbon savings and can significantly lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) for the end user as well as offering. These application areas provide very promising export markets for the European fuel cell industry.
Several European fuel cell companies are already addressing this market with solutions for niche applications in low volume. In order to enter high volume applications (i.e. the rapidly growing telecom sector in several emerging markets) further cost reductions are needed on both of stack and the specific Balance of Plant components.
Applications in remote areas are characterized by other key requirements: low maintenance, long service life of components, capability of remote monitoring and reliable operation in critical applications like oil and gas or safety infrastructure both in cold and in hot regions. Besides typical fuel cell components like stacks and reformers also several balance of plant (BOP) components such as electronic equipment, blowers, gas metering, sensors have to be specifically designed. They need to match the needs of reliable and rugged long term performance in order to provide long lasting, low maintenance products for remote applications. This provides an opportunity of a joint supply of the specific Balance of Plant components for remote operation by the European system manufacturers. This can increase the volume of such low-volume specialised items (tolerance to wide operating temperatures, high humidity).
Although first products have touched the market in prototype and pre-series state, currently the lack of long-term track records together with the high CAPEX, due to high cost of stacks and certain critical BOP equipment (i.e. power electronics, electronics suitable for low temperatures) provide a barrier for a large scale roll-out of fuel cell based power generators.


The project should develop and demonstrate the next generation system products in gas and oil infrastructures in remote regions (monitoring and communication, control of block and gate valves, corrosion protection, etc.) and possibly the telecommunication towers power supply that grows fast in emerging countries. Both applications have a typical power need in the range of 0.5 to 5 kW under harsh climate conditions.
The manufacturers’ solutions should provide products meeting all relevant requirements for remote power generation in potentially harsh climate conditions and develop technological strategies in order to close the gap between prototypes and pre-series manufacturing to a commodity.
Applicants should demonstrate firm commitment from end-users, through conditional orders or direct participation in the consortium during the application phase. In addition, projects should involve all relevant parties from the end user side such as gas and oil companies, telecommunication tower operators, telecommunication companies, fuel cell manufacturers and ideally suppliers of critical Balance of Plant components.

Applicants should also focus on the following targets.


  • Provide next generations of FC based systems for remote power supply that consider local/regional requirements to provide global products with regionally adapted solutions that match normative requirements like CE marking or other standards. This includes:
    • For the application in cold areas, the ability to start-up systems from -40°C from Natural Gas or from -15°C for LPG;
    • The fuel cell based systems demonstrate significantly higher efficiency compared to diesel generators with an AC electrical efficiency above 30% (LHV);
    • A design of BOP components should be realized for a broad range of climate conditions, which can be made available for different manufacturers. The projects should identify critical BOP components and where possible define common standards to generate synergies in the supply chain. Component suppliers are encouraged to participate in the projects to engineer and validate their solutions;
    • The broad applicability should be validated and demonstrated in a large field test, in order to verify the reliable operation (24/7/365 over 24 months). The intervals for proactive maintenance should be more than 12 months;
    • The service lifetime should be comparable to established solutions and life cycle costs should be lower than those of competing solutions. As necessary, further strategies for life cycle cost reduction should be developed;
    • The use of locally available fuels e.g. natural gas (from gas pipeline) or other relevant fuels should be demonstrated;
    • Remote system access and diagnosis plus smart service and maintenance concepts should be implemented;


  • Transform the prototype manufacturing into a concept for serial production, where reproducibility of production stages and availability of larger quantities are realised. Maintainability and reparability of components have to be improved in order enable local, less educated personal to do it within short time at low cost.
  • Gain relevant statistical data for availability, degradation and service cost that will enable manufacturers to build guarantee and service contract concepts for end-customers.


  • The transfer from prototype to series production needs to reduce the balance of plant component costs by at least 30% for prototypes or be compatible with conventional series production where available through a technology platform approach. This involves value engineering e.g. simplification of the generator structure and modularization of the system and scale effects in the manufacturing process.
  • Identify markets and needs for the distribution of the product and adapt it to specific requirements, if necessary. Search for existing networks of potential customers; possibly recruit local distributors for the marketing, sales, installation, commissioning and service.

The above-mentioned targets should be validated and demonstrated in a field test of pipeline and telecommunication applications by at least 3 stack manufacturers or fuel cell integrators with at least total 15 units in the power range of 0.5 to 5 kWe. Applicants should demonstrate a total sum of system electrical power capacity of at least 15 kW.
TRL at start: 5 and TRL at end: 7.
Any safety-related event that may occur during execution of the project shall be reported to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) dedicated mailbox JRC-PTT-H2SAFETY@ec.europa.eu, which manages the European hydrogen safety reference database, HIAD.
Test activities should collaborate and use the protocols developed by the JRC Harmonisation Roadmap (see section 3.2.B "Collaboration with JRC – Rolling Plan 2018"), in order to benchmark performance of components and allow for comparison across different projects.
International collaboration with countries under International Partnership of Hydrogen into the Economy (IPHE) is specifically encouraged for this topic.

The maximum FCH 2 JU contribution that may be requested is EUR 3 million. This is an eligibility criterion – proposals requesting FCH 2 JU contributions above this amount will not be evaluated.
A maximum of 1 project may be funded under this topic.
Expected duration: 4 years.

Expected Impact:
  • Strengthening and growth of the European value chain for FC technologies by capitalising and seizing the large export market opportunity that fuel cell based remote power generation provides;
  • Introduction of technology to niche markets for approval and demonstration at international customers’ sites under real conditions such as oil and gas companies in e.g. North America and Europe, Asia and MEA will provide the base for long term experience to gain customer trust and for further cost reduction;
  • This will enable to grow the application range to further markets with larger volume potential of several 1000 new installations per year in the telecom sector only in Asia, where usually no landlines will be installed and instead of that, cell phone communication will be established exclusively with increasing energy demand for internet services via mobile devices;
  • Increase of trust towards new customer groups and improvement in the visibility as reliable and long lasting technology in the energy market, by demonstrations in relevant field environments in collaboration with stakeholders from other industry segments e.g. gas- and oil industry or telecommunication industry;
  • A cost reduction of minimum 30% by means of value engineering and serial manufacturing technologies for systems and core system parts and use of standardized BOP components;
  • Providing improved energy efficiency products with early commercial viability will contribute to the economic viability of fuel cell products overall and to the creation of a Tier level industrial structure allowing transferring scale effects to other applications;

Type of action: Innovation Action
The conditions related to this topic are provided in the chapter 3.3 and in the General Annexes to the Horizon 2020 Work Programme 2018– 2020 which apply mutatis mutandis.

Cross-cutting Priorities:

International cooperation

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