Renewable Energy Memo

January 5, 2010

Fuel Cell Economics Improving, Offering Energy Storage Solutions

Filed under: CleanTech investing — Tags: , , — Jonathan B. Wilson @ 7:37 am

The economics of fuel cells are improving each year, according to Pike Research, which forecasts that global revenues will more than double over the next few years, from $336m in 2009 to $716m in 2013, according to reports. Pike Research’s analysis indicates that stationary fuel cells offer enormous long-term potential, offering a clean, efficient source of electricity and range in size from 1 kW up to 10 MW or more.

With reformer technology, fuel cells are able to tap into established or accessible sources of fuels such as natural gas, and they can run off of various other fuels including biofuels and gases that are by-products of adjacent industrial processes. With cogeneration or combined heat and power, efficiencies improve dramatically from 40–50% up to as high as 85%. However, cost issues make the technologies’ long-term potential difficult to predict. In order for costs to come down, volumes will have to increase.

Pike Research, however, claims that costs will need to be reduced substantially in order for volumes to materialize. Without uniform government subsidy programs, Pike Research argues, it is unclear if or when that tipping point may occur. The estimated size of the fuel cell market in 2008 was 38 MW, and it is expected to grow to 219 MW by 2013, representing a CAGR of 33%. This translates into a market with a dollar value of $242M in 2008 that will grow to nearly $716M by 2013, representing a CAGR of 24%.

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