BOULDER, Colo. - Fuel cells for stationary power applications are enjoying a surge in interest for a range of applications including combined heat and power (CHP) for the residential and commercial markets, electricity generation for homes and commercial buildings, backup and prime power for mobile telecommunications networks, and other uninterruptible power supply (UPS) applications. According to a new report from Pike Research, the stationary fuel cell market experienced 60 percent year-over-year growth in unit shipments between 2009 and 2010, and the firm forecasts that sales volumes will continue to expand at an impressive pace over the next several years, surpassing 1.2 million units annually by 2017.

“The stationary fuel cell sector continues to be the trail blazer for the entire fuel cell industry,” said research director Kerry-Ann Adamson. “Technology costs are continuing to fall, new companies are coming into the space, and adoption is gathering steam in markets such as UPS, CHP, and residential power. As such, stationary fuel cells are gaining increased attention and interest from a variety of stakeholders.”

Adamson added that early centers of adoption include Japan, Germany, and Denmark, particularly for residential CHP applications, and the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea are poised to be fast followers in this key application area. Another important application is large prime power fuel cells, which enable buildings to produce base load power. Commercial and industrial users are taking an increased interest in such fuel cells, driven by developments in the public policy environment as well as concerns over grid stability and volatility in energy prices.

Pike Research’s analysis indicates that the competitive landscape is becoming increasingly crowded and established vendors such as UTC Power, FuelCell Energy, Altergy, Relion, Idatech, and Panasonic are being joined by high-profile startups like Bloom Energy. However, while there are some 60-plus companies with active development programs, only a handful of these are shipping units that could be considered commercial. In 2010, Pike Research estimates that just five companies represented more than three-quarters of all unit shipments in the global market. This is set to change in the next two to three years, though, when a group of developers including Ceramic Fuel Cells and Ceres Power reach their self-publicized commercialization targets, and, as barriers to entry in some sectors are low and market pull is high, it is inevitable that new companies will be formed and that the level of competition will intensify.

Publication date: 06/20/2011