Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) Market to Reach US$6.8 billion by 2033
With the drive towards zero-emission power generation, fuel cells are continuing to generate noticeable interest, especially as part of the much hyped ‘hydrogen economy’. The fuel flexibility of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) is of particular interest – capable of running on zero/low carbon emission fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia, and e-fuels, as well as light hydrocarbons. With applications ranging from utility-scale power generation to small off-grid residential units, will solid oxide fuel cells be the zero-emission power generation solution of tomorrow?
IDTechEx covers the energy and decarbonization sector comprehensively, detailing carbon capture technology, both electric and fuel cell vehicles, and hydrogen production. They have released a report, Solid Oxide Fuel Cells 2023-2033: Technology, Applications, Players and Forecasts, which includes granular 10-year forecasts segmented by application area for both megawatt demand and market valuation, while also detailing the price progression outlook for solid oxide fuel cells. It reveals that SOFCs are entering the growth phase, with market value set to grow to US$6.8 billion in 2033.
Historic annual installations (MW) for solid oxide fuel cells (2016-2022), and a breakdown of market share by application area for 2023.
A solid oxide fuel cell stack consists of hundreds of individual cells, featuring an electrolyte sandwiched between an anode and cathode, positioned between interconnects. A stack is integrated into a module in combination with the balance of plant. Due to high operating temperatures, one of the most critical issues to overcome for SOFCs is the matching of thermal expansion coefficient of neighboring components to limit stresses during operation. The typical material choice for the ceramic electrolyte is yttria-stabilized zirconia (YSZ) but ceria-based alternatives are emerging, enabling a reduction in operating temperature, and hence limiting degradation issues.
SOFCs are best suited to continuous, steady state operation due to extended ramp up times. The ability to operate on a fuel of natural gas allows the SOFC to be connected to gas grid for continuous supply of fuel. Continuous operation leads to a constant power output for SOFCs, which is particularly well suited for power generation for the grid, alongside commercial and industrial (C&I) applications. Combined heat and power (CHP) can be supplied to industrial/commercial spaces, while power alone is useful for applications such as data centres, critical operations (health care etc), and utility scale electricity generation. Each of the major application areas is covered in this IDTechEx report, detailing the suitability for SOFCs and comparison with competing solutions.
The landscape of players in the SOFC market is set to change dramatically over the coming decade. Bloom Energy are established as the current dominant player, with an installation base approaching 1 GW. However, competitors are emerging with both small companies and large multinationals entering the market through partnerships, licensing agreements or in-house R&D. IDTechEx provides an independent assessment of these emerging players including technology differentiators (including fuel flexibility) and targeted applications within the market.