The potential of SOFC market
For those that get it right, the prize is substantial. The future fuel cell market has huge potential. MRC statistics estimate the overall fuel cell market to be worth around €23bn in 2024/258 (Fuel Cell Market Size – Industry Forecast Report, 2014 (2016), published by Global Market Insight Inc) with SOFC market valued at $2.6 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $4.9 billion by 2022. Global Market Insights put the market at $25.5 billion and SOFCs at $3 billion by 2024 (https://www.gminsights.com/industry-analysis/fuel-cell-market). These are promising numbers, which suggest an industry on the verge of a commercial breakthrough.
But perhaps the bigger prize is the benefit to the world. Estimates of how much carbon fuel cells could save vary hugely depending on how the industry progresses and the enthusiasm from consumers, business and governments.
In theory there is no reason why most electricity and heating could not ultimately be produced by SOFC systems in our homes and businesses, powered by ever cleaner fuel sources, and ultimately carbon neutral hydrogen.
For the time being, the high cost of fuel cell technology – due to high operating temperatures – limits adoption to subsidised applications, or where the need for reliable clean power trumps cost drivers. However, the potential is there: much of the hard work has been done and the challenge now is to bring down costs, offering the holy trinity of unit cost, efficiency and durability – most of which will be achieved through bringing operating temperatures down to below 700°C. SOFCs are where solar PV was 15 years ago. The technology is proven, it is efficient, and existing designs are viable for commercial use with subsidies.
New designs which allow lower operating temperatures will improve costs, efficiency and lifetime in the next few years, creating systems which are commercially viable without subsidies – creating SOFC systems which are profitable for manufacturers and deliver a return on investment for consumers and businesses.