Fuel cells for towercos: interview with Alan Kneisz, Vice President, Advent Energy
TowerXchange: Advent provides energy services to towercos and telcos, could you tell us a little more about the company?
Alan Kneisz: Advent is a leading HT PEM fuel cell supplier that has extensive experience deploying our fuel cell on telecom sites. Advent’s unique technology has an integrated reformer that allows us to use liquid fuel (methanol-water mix), rather than hydrogen cylinders. Our next generation HT PEM technology is more robust in terms of extreme environments for heat and cold, for instance, we have the ability to operate at 50C. This allows a cost effective TCO vs generators and almost the same usage profile and is distinctly suited to the telecom market.
TowerXchange: What are the advantages of using fuel cells, and how do these compare to diesel alternatives?
Alan Kneisz: Some of the key advantages are related to reliability, reduced theft, better TCO and carbon reductions. Both green and grey methanol offer extensive carbon reductions. With high efficiency over 40%, double of generators, fuel cells are clearly a better technology. Also, using fuel cells negates theft on site as our systems and fuel have yet to be stolen. Fuel cells can run for days as long as there is fuel, they can be a prime power for a site or back up (even up to 72 hours or more), if needed. Also, our eFuel (methanol-water) is easily accessible, has less fuel price fluctuations and safer than diesel.
TowerXchange: Does Advent offer only one type of fuel cells or are there different options for different situations? And how do your products integrate into a network with diesel generators?
Alan Kneisz: Not all fuel cells are created equally. Advent has a fuel cell that has specific advantages for towercos. With our HT (high temperature) PEM systems we have clear advantages:
- We run at a higher temperature thus require less cooling
- Our systems are better in extreme environments – both heat and cold (-20C to 50C)
- Using Liquid Efuels (methanol-water), allows for greater reliability and less components and easy distribution of fuel
Having HT-PEM fuel cell from Advent allows for liquid fuel which lowers the overall OPEX for a towerco or telco as it is far less expensive for the fuel and transport of the fuel. Note that fuel cells only need 1 check per year vs 5-6 for generators, have no fuel theft and are more reliable than generators. Having both is very similar, and training is minimal for fuel cells, so it is not a great change when introducing fuel cells. Fuel cells work well with batteries (giving extended run times) and also have the ability to integrate with other renewables energies. Think of a fuel cell as just a better generator, cleaner and more efficient. We have done projects globally where both fuel cells and generators are running in telecom networks and where operators often replace old generators with fuel cells.
TowerXchange: Can you provide reliable fuel distribution in any market?
Alan Kneisz: Fuel cell challenges are often awareness and acceptance of this new technology. Distribution can be a challenge, but we have found with good planning, it can easily be overcome. They key is to focus on larger deployments which will allow for greater volume and distribution of the systems. For instance, Advent has developed distribution of our eFuel throughout the challenging Philippines environment with over 600 systems in that country. Methanol is an industrial fuel that is readily available globally and even has bunkering at over 100 ports globally. Setting up supply chain can be done with guidance from Advent.
TowerXchange: How is the company planning to develop its systems along with the growing needs in the telecom sector?
Alan Kneisz: We will introduce 10kw and even 50kw single systems as early as next year for trials. This allows us to scale up with the power requirements needed on site and co-location of operators. Even today we have done solution for telecoms up to 20kw per site. Also, we don’t have to oversize like generators, thus we take the average power load on site. Thus, if the site is 3.5kw average we would deploy our 5kw fuel cell, while a generator would normally be 20-25kva in size.
Alan Kneisz will be speaking at the 10th annual TowerXchange Meetup Asia 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on November 28th – 29th 2023.