Stationary fuel cells are the biggest fuel cell systems available today. They range in power from hundreds of watts to multiple megawatts and power everything from remote telecom towers to large office complexes. Stationary fuel cells are often powered by natural gas or biogas at facilities dealing with organic waste steams.
Stationary fuel cells offer a number of advantages over competing power sources. One such advantage is that fuel cells produce exceedingly reliable, high quality power. This is important for many types of business users. Natural variance in voltage from the grid can damage sensitive electronic equipment. US businesses lose $29 billion annually from computer damage due to power outages. This is why many data centers have ditched grid power and invested in fuel cell systems, which can be up to 99.9999% reliable. That translates to roughly one minute of downtime in a six year span. Since fuel cell systems keep running during power outages, they also eliminate the need for backup generators.
Stationary fuel cell systems do not require transmission lines because they are located on site. This is one reason they are so reliable. Power generation at the site of consumption is called distributed generation. Distributed generation eliminates dependence on power lines and the 7-10% electrical losses that occur during power transmission. This makes the efficiency gap between traditional combustion power plants (around 30% efficient) and fuel cells (45-65% efficient, 80%+ for CHP systems) even more significant.
Combined heat and power (CHP) stationary systems provide heating and cooling in addition to electricity. These systems are ideal for residential installations, hotels, and businesses like grocery stores with sizable demand for both refrigeration and electricity. Thousands of micro-CHP systems for single households have been deployed in Japan and are beginning to see commercialization in the U.S. A typical 1 kW residential fuel cell is roughly the size of a small refrigerator. These units produce no sound, minimal emissions, and run on the natural gas lines already connected to most houses. In many places, residential fuel cells are already saving consumers money on their electric and heating bills.
For more information on Stationary Fuel Cell Applications, see our Fact Sheets below: