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Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

Fuel Cells Overview

Fuel cells have recently emerged as one of the most promising new technologies for meeting future global electric power needs. Inherently clean and efficient, reliable and quiet, fuel cells offer great potential for a host of power-generation applications. Fuel cells convert a hydrogen-containing fuel, such as natural gas or propane, into electricity and thermal energy, and because of their favorable operating characteristics can be installed on-site in addition to conventional utility application. In large-scale building systems, fuel cells can reduce facility energy service costs by 20% to 40% over conventional energy service.

The building sector, including both residential and commercial buildings, is directly responsible for 32% of natural gas on-site consumption in the United States for such functions as space and water heating. The building sector also consumes about two-thirds of all electricity generated for supplying a wide range of space-conditioning and appliance loads. On a primary energy basis, the building sector accounts for 36% of U.S. energy consumption.

The large direct and indirect fossil fuel requirement to provide current and anticipated future building energy needs is the driving force behind the U. S. Department of Energy's efforts to develop high efficiency end-use equipment as part of its technology development strategy. High-efficiency building cogeneration systems using fuel cells are expected to be one of the key technology options for improving building energy efficiency.

Hydrogen and Fuel Cells

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