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March 15, 2007

Current costs and the future of Fuel cells

Fuelcell Energy is the leading company for stationary larger fuel cells.

Their cost out program quotes prices coming down from $3800 to 3400/kw and to below $3000/kw in volumes which seem to be expected in 2007. They are selling about 20MW. They have bids out for about 91MW.

If cost reduction is in the 8-15% per year range then we are looking at 2012-2016 as being the years when fuel cells get cost competitive. $1500/kw or less. Currently they depend upon subsidies and have tiny volumes.

Japan is talking about making membranes out of plastic which could greatly lower costs for car sized mobile systems

DOE programs are for 10 year s to get to large scale demo fuel cell plants that are cost competitive. 2020 target date for commercial systems.

These are promising systems offering possibly the only option for meeting the DOE's efficiency goal for advanced coal based power systems of 60 percent (HHV) for fuel-to-electricity, with near zero emissions and competitive costs for multi-MW class central power plants in a 2020 time frame.

Useful links:
http://www.netl.doe.gov/technologies/coalpower/fuelcells/seca.html
http://www.fce.com/downloads/distributed_generation.pdf
http://www.hyweb.de/News/2006WorldwideFuelCellSurvey.pdf
http://www.fuelcelleurope.org/home-fce.fcm?subsite=479

2015-2020 for fuel cells to get commercially competitive, 2020-2030 for serious scale up unless there is a major technological breakthrough like molecular nanotechnology. So nuclear is still the main non-fossil fuel approach for the next 20 years and retrofiting current coal plants to clean particulates and pollution so they are less deadly. (mainly US, China, India), shut down the 10% of the smallest, oldest and dirtiest coal plants.

To improve the capabilities of coal power plants to capture primary particulates, the Energy Department's Fossil Energy program assisted in the development of devices that combine the best features of both a baghouse and an electrostatic precipitator (ESP) in the same compact enclosure. This device removes at least 99.99% of the solid particles in the flue gas of coal-fired power plants. Other projects developed improvements to the efficiency of existing electrostatic precipitators by installing a device that concentrates particles escaping the ESP and recycling them back to the ESP inlet. Another project developed low-cost, non-toxic conditioning agents that are injected in flue gases before they enter the ESP to make the tiny particles more
susceptible to capture.

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