Fuel Cell Boom Stymied by Need for Platinum, GE Says

Posted on March 31st, 2014 by

Fuel Cell Boom Stymied by Need for Platinum, GE Says

General Electric Co. determines that the fuel cell technology is hampered because of its dependence on the scarce element, platinum. The comment reveals constraints that may keep fuel cells from penetrating the energy market as a mainstream technology. Fuel cells use natural gas to produce power through a chemical reaction, and the most common technology requires platinum to be the catalyst. GE Power Conversion spent time studying the technology and concluded that it will be very challenging to scale-up. The unit is looking at an alternative – solid oxide fuel cells – that does not need noble metals, but adds that an actual product is still very far off.

SunPower Anticipates 300 MW of Sales From China Unit

SunPower Corp., the second-largest U.S. solar manufacturer, expects to sell about 300 MW of systems this year from a factory in China that may eventually serve as an export hub. About two-thirds of all generating capacity installed over the next 10 years will be in China and SunPower is aiming to get a foothold in the world’s largest solar market. The factory in China is currently producing components at an annual rate of 50 MW but will eventually scale-up to 300 of capacity, says CEO Tom Werner.

Top Inverter Maker SMA Loss Wider Than Expected As Solar Market Turns

SMA Solar Technology AG, Germany’s largest solar manufacturer, reported a wider-than-expected loss because demand moved away from its home market in Europe toward Asia. SMA suffered a net loss of 67 million euros ($93 million) in 2013, compared to the 62.4 million-euro-loss estimate projected by  Bloomberg analysts. SMA has already cut jobs and is reducing costs as it expects revenue to improve to as much as 1.3 billion euros this year from 933 million euros last year. The company has invested 300 million euros over the last three years on R & D and is now developing a new product platform that the hope will lead to lower material costs.

Panasonic Reluctant to Commit to Tesla Battery Factory

Panasonic Corp. Tesla Motors Inc.’s main supplier of lithium-ion cells for its Modle S cars, is hesitant to commit in investing in the massive U.S. battery plant being proposed by Tesla’s Elon Musk.  Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga told reporters that joining Tesla’s Gigafactory battery project will raise investment risks. Tesla relies on Panasonic for the battery materials, says Menahem Anderman president of Total Battery Consulting Inc. in California. If Panasonic will not be involved, that will make the factory much more of a challenge, Anderman adds.

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