| Strengths & Weaknesses
| Future Development
| Vendors |
The first cost of fuel cells is very high compared to those of other DER technologies. The only product available commercially today is the PureCell 200 (formerly PC-25)™ built by UTC Power. The cost of the unit is approximately $4,000/kW. The installed cost of the unit approaches $1.1 million. At a rated output of 200kW, this translates to about $5,500/kW, installed. Other fuel cell types are less developed.
Like most new technologies, as more units are installed and new players join the market, prices are likely to fall. Price projections vary among fuel cell developers, but most are targeting costs below $1,500/kW based on volume production. It is highly unlikely that this price target will be achieved before 2007. At the current price, units are only used in high value, "niche" markets where reliability is premium, and in areas where electricity prices are very high and natural gas prices are low.
Fuel cells are expected to have minimum maintenance requirements. The fuel supply systems and reformer system may need periodic (about once a year) inspection and maintenance. The cell stack itself will not require maintenance until the end of its service life. The maintenance and reliability of the system still needs to be proven in a large-scale, long-term demonstration.
Maintenance costs of a fuel cell are expected to be comparable to that of a microturbine, ranging from $0.005-$0.010/kWh (based on an annual inspection visit to the unit).
The phosphoric acid fuel cell is currently the only fuel cell technology that is commercialized as a distributed generation product. Currently, UTC Power manufactures 200-kW phosphoric acid fuel cell units at a cost of approximately $4000/kW. Efforts are underway to reduce the cost of phosphoric acid fuel cells. The Department of Energy (DOE) is helping to promote fuel cell technologies by offering a $1000/kW federal subsidy to reduce the cost to the purchaser.
MCFC, SOFC, PEMFC
The three other fuel cell technologies are in varying stages of development, with only limited commercialization likely for several years.
Long term $1,000/kW