The engineering problems in fuel cell development are easier to solve for fuel cells as stationary electric power generators than for transportation. Fuel cells in vehicles have additional design requirements such as low weight and ability to handle vibrations. Therefore fuel cells will first be widely used for electric power generation.
"We really see fuel cells starting to be viable by the generators toward the end of the decade. We're past science and we're into engineering," said Greg Romney, vice president of fuel cells and fuel processing at Chevron Technology Venture Co.'s Houston headquarters. "We're not there yet in terms of entering the market with real products. Some foreign markets may develop first because (the demand for and cost of) electricity is higher."
Decreasing costs for smaller turbine electric generators has led to the growth of the use of turbines by companies to generate their own electricity instead of buying from electric utilities. The advent of cost effective fuel cell electricity generators that convert natural gas to electricity with greater efficiency than turbines can achieve will surely accelerate that trend. So one consequence of the development of fuel cell technology will be a reducing in the centralization of electricity generation combined with the growth in the distribution of natural gas to more end-points.
The article argues that fuel cells will first be used in more developed countries because the technological infrastructure and natural gas availability exists to support their use. But in developing countries the ability to generate reliable electricity to fund, for instance, software development and services technology parks will make fuel cell electric generators attractive where reliable natural gas supply can be arranged.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2003 January 31 10:04 AM Energy Electric Generators|