Fuel cell technologies have come a long ways over the last decade and are now rapidly increasing their market share across a variety of power applications, from onboard vehicle power plants using PEM (proton exchange membrane) designs, to large-scale, multi-megawatt utility power for grid-connected or independent use, using designs like DFCs (direct fuel cells) and high-temperature SOFCs (solid oxide fuel cells). The larger scale applications still have the most room to grow out of the overall fuel cell market and cutting-edge designs using versatile DFC and SOFC approaches are becoming increasingly attractive for building highly localized power plants that can take advantage of nearby fuel sources, as well as nearby power demand.
A recent report by global market research and consulting company MarketsandMarkets on the fuel cell technology industry’s outlook, estimates that the space will grow at an extremely healthy CAGR of 14.7% over the next four years alone, nearly doubling from roughly $2.61 billion last year, to over $5.20 billion by 2019. MarketsandMarkets also noted in their report that the stationary power generation segment was going to be a major source of growth for the overall market, due in large part to tight form factors making these solutions ideal for localized electrical generation, even in rough terrain, as well as a distinctly advantageous ability to run off various fuel types.
The market for stationary fuel cell power generation located in immediate proximity to corporate offices, as well as plants and manufacturing facilities, is expected to help drive the growing trend towards grid decentralization. Both as a means of increasing efficiency through reduction of transmission and distribution losses, and as a way of curbing grid failure downtime via the adoption of highly localized supply and consumption metrics. On-site power using smaller scale generation will likely become a dominant trend over the next decade as more and more entities, particularly in the thriving Asia-Pacific region, move to produce reliable, clean energy themselves, instead of relying on an overtaxed grid.
Of course, grid-connected fuel cell power plants will continue to also be a key feature of the market moving forward and the Asia-Pacific region is seen as being the largest value generator for such applications. Japan and South Korea are some of the biggest contenders here and the recent completion of the largest fuel cell power plant on earth, the 59 MW Gyeonggi Green Energy Park in Hwasung City, South Korea is a shining example of how far large-scale fuel cell power has come. The LNG-fuelled plant uses 21 FuelCell Energy (NASDAQ:FCEL, $1.36/share) Direct Fuel Cell (DFC3000) units (2.8 MW each) and because the overall footprint is so small, it is seen as the perfect model to roll out fuel cell generation solutions across the largely hilly terrain that makes up so much of energy-intensive South Korea.
FCEL’s DFC plants use carbonate (potassium and lithium electrolyte) fuel cells and can generate clean power from even diesel fuel and coal gas, being capable of internally reforming hydrogen from the source fuel. FuelCell Energy is hard at work advancing SOFC technology as well, which has significant advantages like very high electrical efficiency and the ability to provide substantial, easily utilized waste heat for CHP (combined heat and power) applications.
One of the companies already deeply entrenched in the SOFC game is Dominovas Energy (OTCQB:DNRG, $0.05/share), whose Fuel Cell Division has developed the RUBICON™ Series of multi-megawatt SOFCs, which boast greater than 50% fuel-to-electricity efficiency and are extremely fuel-flexible, being able to generate electricity from almost any of the hydrocarbon fuels. From diesel, natural gas, LNG, propane, ethanol and methanol, to bio-derived fuels and pure hydrogen, RUBICON offers fuel-flexible, cost-effective and clean electricity generation with significantly reduced emissions. Moreover, the RUBICON series integrates a desulfurizer, reformer and a number of heat exchangers directly into its fuel processor, reforming hydrocarbon fuels with steam prior to reaching the plant’s SOFC anode. RUBICON thus avoids coking and sulfur poisoning issues, a capability which is further enhanced by active tuning of key parameters like the steam to carbon ratio, current density, and temperature.
The company has also partnered with well-established global vehicle component manufacturer and electric, powertrain, thermal and safety solutions provider, Delphi Automotive PLC’s (NYSE:DLPH, $ 77.88/share) subsidiary, Delphi Automotive Systems, to jointly develop new innovations in SOFC. Adapting and incorporating Delphi’s own SOFC stack technology, while providing Delphi with the opportunity to further flesh out their fuel cell technology for stationary power applications, is a huge advantage for Dominovas Energy, which also grants them access to the sprawling international markets already opened up by Delphi’s existing footprint.
To learn more about the company, visit www.dominovasenergy.com
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