Power Electronics

Stationary Fuel Cells Poised for Dynamic Growth

Fuel cells are projected to emerge as the preferred distributed generation technology, according to a report by Frost & Sullivan, a marketing research firm. The “European Stationary Fuel Cells Market” report also claims fuel cells will play a dominant role in redefining the European energy industry in the future. Since combined heat and power (CHP)-based fuel-cell systems offer significant prospects for market expansion, current research and development efforts are focused on attaining technological breakthroughs that will result in enhanced product offerings at competitive price levels.

The Frost & Sullivan report finds the fuel-cell market is expected to achieve commercialization by the end of this decade, and is estimated to reach $197 million in 2010. The three main fuel-cell technologies discussed in the report are molten-carbonate fuel cells, solid-oxide fuel cells and proton-exchange-membrane fuel cells.

“Fuel cells will play a pivotal role in the European energy industry in the future due to their high electrical efficiencies as well as their environment-friendly profile,” noted Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Hema Sarathy. “Threats over the security of fuel supply coupled with increasing concern about air pollution and emission control are strengthening the case in favor of fuel cells as a preferred form of distributed generation technology.”

Sarathy also said that the scope of the report deals with primary power systems, as opposed to systems that provide backup power. However, it is expected that end users with high power demand would locate these primary power fuel-cell systems on-site, a common practice for backup power systems.

Fuel cells show electrical efficiencies of 40% to 49% in comparison with competing technologies, which display electrical efficiencies in the range of 30% to 35%. In a cogeneration mode, fuel-cell systems can achieve an electrical efficiency of close to 80% to 85%. Hence, higher efficiencies and improved benefits will result in CHP-based fuel-cell systems leading the expansion of the stationary fuel-cell market during the initial years of commercialization, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Currently, major concerns revolve around enhancing the reliability and durability of fuel cells. The lack of robustness in current fuel-cell systems is affecting their performance in comparison to traditional technologies. Moreover, high capital and operating costs are proving a major deterrent to commercialization, with customers awaiting cost reductions for an enhanced value proposition. Hence, the adoption of fuel-cell systems is doubtful without an improved and more competitive product and price offering.

“The stationary fuel-cell industry is currently in a demonstration and a product validation stage, where the focus is not only on product development, but also on understanding the requirements of customers in order to enhance the product solution,” Sarathy said.

For more information or to purchase the “European Stationary Fuel Cells Market” report, see www.frost.com.

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