Despite significant cost reductions and reliability improvements in recent decades, combined heat and power (CHP) stationary fuel cells are expected to remain relatively limited in their commercial acceptance until additional advancements are realized.
In the present study, three stationary CHP fuel cell technologies — phosphoric acid (PAFC), molten carbonate (MCFC), and solid oxide (SOFC) — operating in the 100–400 kWe range were examined with process based cost models to estimate manufacturing costs and to highlight high cost steps where alternative production methods may have the greatest potential for high impact cost reduction. PAFC manufacturing costs, estimated to be $3049/kWe for a baseline manufacturing volume of 20 MWe/yr, may benefit most from reduced catalyst loading, lower cost substrates, reduced fuel processing balance of plant (BOP) costs, and near net shape bipolar plate manufacturing. MCFC manufacturing costs, while not reported in detail due to the proprietary nature of inputs employed in the model, may be reduced through advances in fuel desulfurization and stainless steel stack component manufacturing. SOFC manufacturing costs, estimated to be $1242/kWe, approach a commercially acceptable level, but significant advancements in seal and bipolar plate reliability are likely required before a commercially acceptable stack life of 40,000 hours is realized.