While countries like Germany, Japan and America have embraced fuel cell technology, the UK has until now lagged behind with high capital costs serving as a major barrier to widespread adoption of fuel cell technology.
However, Tom Sperrey believes the UK fuel cell landscape is to change in the next 12 months as costs fall with new products entering the market.
“2010 is bringing with it a new wave of fuel cell activity. Already new products are launching into the market and companies continue to show interest in learning more about fuel cells and adopting clean technology. We are currently discussing fuel cell system roll-outs with several major corporates and NGOs.
Under a grant from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) we are part of a consortium working to develop new technologies that reduce the use of expensive materials in fuel cells. As these developments are rolled out commercially, we expect capital costs to fall and make the technology financially attainable for more businesses.
Growth hotspots at present are traffic signalling, remote monitoring and security using smaller hydrogen and methanol fuel cells with power ranges between 25W to 150W for prime power and up to 15kW for standby power. Because smaller fuel cells are reliable, durable and portable, they are better suited to these types of applications.
In these growth hotspots, fuel cells offer extended runtimes, for example, a fuel cell equipped with a 28 litre canister of methanol can easily operate equipment continuously for up to six months without human interference, therefore reducing the costs of manpower, transport and materials costs associated with sending someone to replace batteries on a regular basis.
Smaller units have the potential to revolutionise the UK fuel cell industry. They are suitable for a range of applications and are proven technology in a growing number of commercial installations. With falling capital costs, and increased savings through lower running and maintenance costs, these smaller units are beginning to achieve widespread adoption across the UK. As capital costs fall, further applications become viable and create greater demand for fuel cells as an alternative and sustainable source of power.”
In summary, Tom’s prediction for 2010 is:
• Costs for smaller fuel cells will continue to fall;
• Fuel cell growth hotspots will be in low power applications;
• When servicing is taken into account, fuel cell extended runtimes give businesses a much cheaper source of power;
• By working together with our research partners, we are helping to develop technology that drives down fuel cell capital costs even further.
UPS Systems plc (upssystems.co.uk) is the UK’s largest independent supplier of standby power solutions. Through its independent position, allied to close working relationships with the world’s leading manufacturers, the company is uniquely able to offer impartial technical advice on the widest range of standby power solutions. An authority on fuel cell technology, UPS Systems implemented the UK’s first two hydrogen fuel cells providing ac standby power, and is currently working on projects where the technology will be used for the supply of backup or prime power to utilities, telecommunications, remote telemetry, portable signage and renewable energy applications.