The combined heat and power (CHP) and fuel cell market in the U.S. will grow by 11 GW over the next decade, according to a new report from GTM Research.
GTM projects the CHP and fuel cell market will grow from 84 GW to 95 GW by 2026 fueled by a resurgence in manufacturing.
Currently 8% of U.S. generation capacity comes from customer-sited CHP and fuel cells, which GTM notes is almost double the total U.S. wind capacity, and 10 times the capacity of distributed solar.
As costs continue to come down, fuel cells are finding new roles, such as providing baseload power for microgrids. Some types of fuel cells, however, can combine their production of electricity with their ability to provide heat and find a growing use in on-site industrial applications, according to a new report by GTM Research.
A fuel cell generates electricity from an electrochemical reaction and is powered by a constant supply of hydrogen fuel. Solid oxide and molten carbonate fuel cells are likely candidates for CHP applications because they can be scaled from hundreds of kilowatts up into the megawatt range. They also operate at high temperatures, which allows them to provide useful thermal energy and can improve their efficiency.
Molten carbonate fuel cells operate at around 650 degrees Celsius. Solid oxide cells operate as high as 1,000 degrees C.
After a decade of limited growth due to regulatory uncertainties and a declining U.S. manufacturing sector, new incentives and corporate activity are priming the market for resumed growth of on-site CHP, according to the GTM report, "CHP and Fuel Cells 2016-2026: Growth Opportunities, Markets and Forecast."
“What looks like a stagnant market on the surface is actually smoldering with a significant number of technology and fuel options, capable vendors and a new batch of customers who are ready to adopt fuel-based DG systems,” said Mei Shibata, lead author of the report.
“The whole thing could light up again if implementation barriers are lowered and regulations are deemed sufficiently stable from a customer’s perspective,” Shibata said.