In May 2012 EnviroGroup installed a fuel cell system at Bob Hawke Centre, Coburg. This centre is a vital part of the community providing meals for members of the community unable to travel and cook for themselves.

The fuel cell system connects directly to the centre’s natural gas supply, delivering low carbon electricity, 24 hours a day. As a byproduct of this electricity production, hot water is produced, which is used for cooking and cleaning in the centre.

BlueGen can be installed on-site in a home or business. It contains standard connections and operates with virtually no noise.

This exciting new technology will provide the council with significant reductions in electricity bills and bonus hot water.

Details of work

The existing hot water system at the Bob Hawke Community Centre in Coburg was not adequately meeting the hot water demand of 2,700 litres per day. Water was neither being supplied at the right temperature or at sufficient pressure. Furthermore, it was consuming a large amount of gas.

The existing system was made up of two, twenty tube evacuated tube solar collectors, two 315 liter solar hot water storage tanks and three instantaneous gas booster units.

EnviroShop technicians identified that performance was being limited by the immediate flow capacity of the booster units, the existing pipe work configuration and that one of the boosters was completely non-operational.

The solution designed by EnviroShop involved the reconfiguration and reuse of the existing solar collectors, storage tanks and booster units together with the integration of a BlueGen fuel cell co-generation unit. It also involved the installation of a new tank, pumps and connected items.

Reusing the existing system components required a string of additional modifications. These included:

  • modifications to the existing instantaneous booster units
  • repairs to the malfunctioning booster unit
  • reconfiguring the system so that tempered hot water is drawn directly from a storage tank rather than through the booster units to meet the required water pressure demands

The system now successfully provides a constant supply of hot water at the right temperature, at the right pressure and at the right volume while offsetting a significant portion of the centre’s electricity needs with the clean electricity generated onsite by the BlueGen unit.

System Configuration

Generating a steady 1.5kW of electricity, the BlueGen fuel cell co-gen unit also heats water, which is fed into the bottom of the solar hot water storage tank. This water is further heated by the evacuated tube collectors and when required, receives additional boosting from the original three (now fully operational) Bosch instantaneous boosters. To ensure mains pressure, water from the boosting units is returned to the main storage tank. Water is then tempered to reach the kitchen at 60°C and hand basins at 45°C.

Key benefits include

  • Up to 36 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day
  • 200 litres of ‘free’ hot water per day
  • Carbon dioxide savings of up to 14.5 tonnes per year
  • Unconstrained by seasons or weather
  • Simple installation
  • Integrates easily with renewable technologies such as solar PV or solar thermal hot water
  • Constantly monitored by advanced fault detection technology
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