The US Department of Energy estimates that the domestic requirement of additional electric power is likely to touch 1.7 trillion kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2020. This is three times the requirement during 1980 to 2000. It will be a significant challenge for any power utility to accommodate such a large incremental load using only its existing transmission and distribution network.
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Distributed power generation is motivated by the reluctance of power companies to invest in newer power plants due to the lack of returns and the widening gap between the supply and demand of power.
“Enhancing or building new power plants could cause power utilities' reserve margins to exceed peak demand,” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Viswanathan Krishnan. “This scenario can drive the distributed power generation sector, for which the fuel cell technologies are considered the most appropriate for its various benefits such as high energy conversion efficiency and its potential to offer reliable and quality power.”
Nevertheless, the development of these fuel cell technologies is restrained largely due to high costs, complex designs, and fuel problems. The industry is optimistic about resolving these issues with researchers and companies enthusiastically developing innovative solutions for the inherent problems in the application of fuel cells in stationary power.
For fuel cell technology to be effective commercially, technology developers must devise strategies to reduce the costs of fuel cell systems. In stationary fuel cell systems’ stacks, minimizing the use of expensive materials lowers costs.
While one method to enhance fuel cell units’ cost-competitiveness is to produce them in large volumes, technology developers also need to focus on innovative and economical ways to obtain hydrogen from hydrocarbons or from other sources to increase the use of fuel cell-based systems.
In another cost-related issue, technology developers must ensure the availability of hydrogen-rich natural gas to facilitate distributed generation applications as well as to stabilize prices to drive greater uptake of the technology.
An important factor driving the industry is the growing concerns over the affect fossil fuels have on the environment. This is motivating participants to look for alternate power generation technologies. Leading research institutions and companies prefer fuel cell-based power generation. The electrochemical conversion of chemical energy to electricity in a fuel cell is a "green process".
“The elegant emission profile - emitting trace sulphur and nitrogen - makes these technologies an ideal choice for stationary power applications,” notes Krishnan.
Fuel Cells for Stationary Power is part of the Energy & Power Systems vertical subscription service. It covers technologies such as phosphoric acid fuel cells (PAFCs), alkaline fuel cells (AFCs), proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), molten carbonate fuel cells (MCFC), and solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). It provides technology challenges, market drivers, and restraints, as well as assesses innovations and opportunities. The research service enables companies to align their positioning strategies to benefit from these technologies. Executive summaries and analyst interviews are available to the press.
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Fuel Cells for Stationary Power
Keywords in this release: fuel cells, stationary power, phosphoric acid fuel cell, PAFC, alkaline fuel cell, AFC, proton exchange membrane fuel cell, PEMFC, molten carbonate fuel cell, MCFC, solid oxide fuel cell, SOFC, electrochemical conversion, sulphur, nitrogen, hydrocarbons, hydrogen-rich natural gas