Fuel cells are often credited for being quieter, cleaner, more reliable and more efficient than traditional power plants. They may be used as the primary source of power or as a back-up system with significant benefits. They have potential for producing financial savings when used to produce electricity. The objective of this study was to determine the feasibility of using a 250-kW stationary fuel cell system as the primary provider of electrical power at an industrial facility. Additionally, the cost and payback period for such a system including hook up and maintenance were estimated. The biggest drawback to stationary fuel cells is the high initial cost. However, coupled with incentives such as rebates and cogeneration opportunities, select locations in the country may be suitable candidates for implementation. In addition, the type of application and power load cycle are key factors in selecting an appropriate fuel cell type. Most fuel cells favor operating continuously as they are not designed to withstand intermittently changing loads and their efficiencies and life time drop if they are cycled on and off. The only currently viable option is to select a facility located in a “fuel cell friendly” state with a minimum (base) electric demand of 250 kW, 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. The fuel cell would operate based on a “base load strategy”, providing electrical/thermal energy at a constant rate. A detailed economic analysis was carried out. It indicates that the payback period for a currently available large stationary fuel cell system installed in California is over 20 years in Los Angeles and about 15 years outside Los Angeles. This is primarily due to lower electric rates in Los Angeles. Despite multi-year programs providing various funding to assist this new technology, without significant cost reduction by fuel cell developers, no large-scale economic deployment of stationary fuel cells will be viable.

1.
Larminie, J. and Dicks, A. (2003), Fuel Cell Systems Explained, 2nd ed., Wiley.
2.
U.S. Department of Energy — Fossil Energy — Future Fuel Cells R&D www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/fuelcells/
3.
New Jersey Clean Energy Program http://www.njcleanenergy.com/media/combined_heat/Combined_Heat-Power-6-8.pdf
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