BOULDER, Colo. — In recent years, the market for stationary fuel cells has grown significantly. That expansion is expected to continue, as applications in combined heat and power (CHP) for both residential and commercial buildings, backup and primary power for mobile base stations, and electricity generators (again for both commercial and residential use) gain increasing traction and generate significant revenue streams. According to a report from Pike Research, the annual total market value of the worldwide stationary fuel cell sector will reach $9.5 billion by 2017, surpassing 1.2 million units shipped annually. Driving that growth will be shipments of fuel cells for the residential market, which the firm forecasts will more than double in each of the next six years.

“Stationary fuel cells have the potential to slow the rate at which energy demands for the home increase and to increase energy efficiency,” said research director Kerry-Ann Adamson. “Particularly as the role of the home shifts from a family sanctuary to also being the hub of a personal communications network, vendors see great potential for fuel cells to help moderate and manage the energy required to power the myriad applications that 21st century residents desire.”

Early centers of stationary fuel cell adoption include Japan, Germany, and Denmark, particularly for residential CHP applications, while the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea are poised to be fast followers in this key application area. In Japan, the Ene-Farm program, which aims to promote widespread adoption of residential CHP modules, already resulted in the shipment of 6,000 units by 2009.

While such growth in the midst of a global recession is impressive, the industry faces market and technology barriers, noted Pike Research. Raising the profile of stationary fuel cells is a key priority for the industry, as are standardizing the technology and reducing the capital expense of manufacturing and purchasing the units. 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, just five companies represented more than three-quarters of all unit shipments in the global market.

Publication date: 11/28/2011