Fuel Cells for Residential, Commercial and Military Power

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Like batteries, fuel cells produce electrical energy through an electrochemical process.  Unlike batteries, fuel cells are “conversion” devices that change some kind of chemical fuel into electricity.  Like combustion engines, fuel cells “convert” fuel into energy, but in this case the energy is electricity, not kinetic (movement) or heat.

Fuel cells can’t directly store electrical energy, but they may have a great deal of flexibility in fuels.  Possible fuels include hydrocarbons like natural gas or alcohol, or even metals like aluminum.  Many designs operate best on hydrogen gas; others can operate on utility-grade natural gas or propane.

Fuel cell sizes range from tiny portable units that can be held in the hand to massive stacks the size of a two-story building.  Smaller fuel cells can be combined into stacks with an effectively unlimited size.

This report considers residential, commercial and military medium-sized power generation applications for fuel cells too large to be easily portable and smaller utility-scale units. Fuel cells used to power vehicles or small portable products are not considered. The market is divided into three main categories:

  • Combined Heating and Power (CHP).
  • Auxiliary Power Units (APU).
  • Emergency.

Fuel cell types most appropriate for these applications include Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) and Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs), but other types, like molten carbonate, alkaline and phosphoric acid fuel cells, can be used in some specific medium-sized applications.

CHP fuel cells integrate the production of usable heat and power (electricity) in one single, highly efficient process.  CHP generates electricity whilst also capturing usable heat that is produced in this process.  This contrasts with conventional ways of generating electricity whereby a vast amount of heat is simply wasted.  In today’s coal- and gas-fired power stations, up to two-thirds of the overall energy consumed is lost in this way—often seen as a cloud of steam rising from cooling towers.  Their relative sophistication means that the overall efficiency of CHP plants can reach in excess of 80% at the point of use.
Auxiliary power units (APUs) and emergency power fuel cells only generate electricity (not heat).  The distinction between an APU and an emergency power unit depends on the service profile: continuous versus standby/intermittent. Advantages include long service life, ability to operate using a variety of fuels and relatively low cost for the functionality.  Specific applications include emergency or backup power for residences or commercial facilities, telecommunications backup power supplies, signage power, recreational vehicle power, aircraft auxiliary power, and anti-idling power for commercial diesel vehicles.  Power generators provide off-grid power during a blackout, in emergencies, in remote locations or when vehicles are parked.

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REASONS FOR DOING THE STUDY

This report can also provide valuable information in terms of assessing investment in particular technologies and, therefore, should benefit investors directly or indirectly.  Others may find the broad discussions of energy policy and environmental impact to be of considerable value in understanding the opportunities and problems in the near- to mid-term.

INTENDED AUDIENCE

This report is intended to provide a unique analysis of the residential, commercial, and military fuel cell market and will be of interest to a variety of current and potential fuel cell users and integrators as well as competing battery, fuel cell and conventional power generation makers.

BCC Research wishes to thank those companies, government agencies, and university researchers that contributed information for this report.

SCOPE AND FORMAT

This report discusses the values of the North American, European, Far Eastern and Rest-of-World markets.  Target markets are based on optimistic, pessimistic, and consensus alternatives.  Sales (dollars) and shipments (units) for 2011, 2012, and 2017 are provided, with five-year cumulative average growth rates (CAGR) calculated for the period 2012 to 2017.

Fuel cell applications are described and analyzed.  The following applications are considered:

Combined heat and power (CHP) sectors are:

  • Residential.
  • Commercial.
  • Industrial.

Auxiliary power unit (APU) sectors are:

  • Residential/Commercial.
  • Recreational Vehicles.
  • Signage.
  •  Anti-idling.
  • Aircraft.
  • Military.

Emergency sectors are:

  • Residential/Commercial (including uninterruptible power systems).
  • Military.
  • Police/Emergency.

Residential, commercial, and military fuel cell companies are listed and detailed profiles have been prepared.

METHODOLOGY

An in-depth analysis of technical and business literature and published dissertations; a review of the history of the technologies involved; and interviews with industry experts, company representatives, federal government researchers and university scientists provide an assessment of the outlook for alternative electrical power storage.  Other information sources include product literature from suppliers, scientific references, conferences and patent searches.

Both primary and secondary research methodologies were used in preparing this report, which is based on interviews with commercial and government sources, literature reviews, and patent examinations.  Throughout the report, past market data is expressed in current dollars, and estimates and projections are in constant 2012 dollars.

Most market summaries are based on a consensus scenario that assumes no unanticipated technical advances and no unexpected legislation.  When appropriate, several developmental markets are characterized in pessimistic, consensus and optimistic scenarios.  Totals are rounded to the nearest million dollars.  When appropriate, information from previously published sources is identified to allow a more detailed examination by clients.

INFORMATION SOURCES

Market assumptions used in this report include those based on updates of material from an earlier version of this analysis as well as from BCC Research studies; this report’s author prepared these studies as well.  He also edited several relevant newsletters including Fuel Cell Industry Report.  Although many segments of the industry are well documented, much of this information is based on estimates, not hard facts.  The distinction between these estimates and hard facts can be vital, and wherever possible, sources are identified.

ANALYST CREDENTIALS

This report’s project analyst, Donald Saxman, edited BCC Research’s Fuel Cell Industry Report newsletter and has founded several other BCC newsletters.  Mr. Saxman has more than 28 years of experience in market analysis, technical writing and newsletter editing.  Since 1983, he has operated as a technical market consultant and subcontractor to BCC Research, and in this capacity he has prepared more than 80 technology market research reports including many that cover battery technology and battery markets.  His previous experience includes supervision of a quality-control laboratory at a major secondary lead refinery, experience as an analytical chemist at a hazardous waste testing service, product assurance manager for a space station life-support-system project, and an information technology business analyst and project manager.

Major Points covered in Table of Contents

Chapter- 1: Introduction

Chapter- 2: Summary

Chapter- 3: Residential, Commercial And Military Fuel Cells

Chapter- 4: Residential, Commercial And Military Fuel Cell Markets

Chapter- 5: Industry Structure And Competitive Aspects

Chapter- 6: Company Profiles

Chapter- 7: Appendix 1: Competition

Chapter- 8: Appendix 2: Hydrogen Fuel

List Of Tables

List Of Figures

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