The global fuel cell industry had a mixed year with portable system shipments contracting 16 percent, while the stationary sector grew 75 percent from 2010, according to a report from Pike Research.
The Fuel Cells Annual Report 2012 says the overall industry has expanded at a rapid pace, posting a compound annual growth of 83 percent from 2009 to 2011. Pike Research, a unit of Navigant Consulting, forecast the fuel cell industry, including all applications in the stationary, portable and transport sectors, will reach $15.7 billion by 2017.
Despite its growth, the industry is small compared to its counterparts in the broader clean energy arena and still suffers from a pattern of contraction and expansion, Pike Research said. For example, the portable fuel sector lost a large number of companies after system shipments contracted by 16 percent on a year-over-year basis.
Meanwhile, the stationary sector posted the highest growth in 2011, primarily due to a surge of interest in residential combined heat and power systems in Japan following the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The stationary sector posted a compound annual growth of 63 percent from 2009 to 2011.
However, this growth was countered by a dip in the number of megawatts shipped, Pike Research said. Last year, California shifted its subsidies from a capital expenditures system to a performance-based one. As a result, many companies saw shipments of fuel cell systems decline in 2011 due to the time required for recertification of their systems, the report said.
The impact that a singular policy in one state, in one country has on fuel cells illustrates that the industry still isn’t robust enough to absorb any shocks, the report said.
FuelCell Energy, which was among those companies that benefited from an increased interest in stationary systems, ramped up production to meet demand, the report said.
A Pike Research report released last year named FuelCell Energy as the top fuel cell vendor due to a combination of a clear go-to-market strategy, geographic reach and partnerships, coupled with its cost-down systems and mass manufacturing. UTC Power, Hydrogenics, POSCO Power and ClearEdge Power rounded out the top five on the list.