ANNANDALE, VA—Significant technological progress in the fuel cell industry is expected. According to Stan Borys, chief operating officer at the Gas Technology Institute, the industry is on the edge of a significant spurt in growth. "The market and growth potential for fuel cells is enormous," he says.

Much of the technology’s early potential was focused on the automotive sector. However, there are more lucrative areas.

The electrical power generation market should provide a foothold for the technology, given the structural changes taking place with deregulation and growing economic incentives to build distributed or noncentral generating facilities.

Another market that is expected to hold near-term potential is the residential market. Early residential market opportunities for fuel cells are expected to be homes located in remote locations, luxury homes and enthusiastic environmentalists who want to leave the electricity grid or install backup power.

Despite the positive publicity surrounding fuel cells, there are still technical and economic hurdles that must be overcome. There are still no truly commercial fuel cells available. "There is also still the need for the government to invest in the underlying technologies and infrastructure," says Borys.