Fuel Cells: Charging Ahead

Fuel cells are electro-chemical devices that combine fuel – typically hydrogen and oxygen, but can also include other fuels and oxidants—to produce electricity, with heat and water as byproducts. In principle fuel cell produce energy in the form of electricity and heat as long as fuel is supplied.

While fuel cell technology is still advancing, certain applications are on the market right now, including:

  • Back-up or primary power supplies for cell towers
  • Power source for forklifts and other warehouse equipment
  • Sold by energy suppliers to heat, power, and air condition homes in U.S., Europe, and Asia
  • Large stationary cells—used to power manufacturing facilities, hotels, and public buildings
  • Mass production of fuel cell vehicles by the major automakers is set to begin by 2015.

In the United States, Fuel Cells 2000 estimates that there are over 630 companies and labs across 47 states that are involved in the fuel cell or related fuels industry. These companies are investing approximately $1 billion per year in fuel cell technology.  In "Fuel Cells at a Crossroads," the Breakthrough Technologies Institute suggests that clear supportive policies, tax incentives and subsidies and demand creation can help to expand job opportunities in the fuel cell industry.

A 2010 report, “State of the State" analyzed seven different regions of the U.S. to determine which states offer the most supportive hydrogen and fuel cell policies. The report also catalogs and compares installations and demonstrations across states. Based on these policies, installations, and demonstrations, Fuel Cells 2000 has ranked the top five states and program elements in the U.S. so that they can serve as examples for other states:

1.California: Progressive policies, worldwide leader in fuel cell cars and buses, hydrogen stations, and numerous stationary installations

2.Connecticut: Home to major manufacturers, with supportive funding policies and high profile installations

3.New York: Supportive funding policies, with high profile and long-running installations

4.Ohio: Focus on business attraction and development, building supply chain and manufacturing base

5.South Carolina: Promoting demonstrations, hydrogen stations, and business development.

Fuel cells are important to local communities and municipalities because attracting the businesses that develop and support these devices will provide high technology jobs and new revenue streams. Federal government support makes attracting these businesses even easier. For example, the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for fuel cell technology “provides business property owners with a credit of 30% of the cost of the fuel cell units or up to $3,000 per kW, whichever is lower.” (State of the State report, page 6). For more information about the ITC, click here.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that fuel cells and hydrogen technology will result in a net increase of 361,000 to 675,000 jobs by 2035. By working with state and federal partners to incentivize the development of these technologies, local communities and municipalities can ensure that these jobs materialize where they are needed most—close to home.

The full Fuel Cells 2000 State of the State report, which includes much more description of the best practices in the top five states, is available in its entirety here.

To learn more about the different types of fuel cells and their energy sources, click here.

For more information, visit:

Fuel Cells 2000

Fuel Cell & Hydrogen Energy Association

U.S. Department of Energy – Fuel Cell Technologies Homepage

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