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The Fuel Cell Tool for Assessing Costs, or FCTAC, is intended to assess the benefits of installing a stationary fuel cell system at a facility. This tool can be used to help building managers determine whether to undertake a more detailed techno-economic evaluation of adding a fuel cell distributed generation system to a building. FCTAC is not intended to give an actual cost estimate.

By entering a dozen inputs, you are on your way to determining if a stationary fuel cell is right for your building. You can download an input checklist that will help you gather the necessary information.

After entering information about your specific building, you will be given an assessment that compares the baseline building system with no fuel cell and the building system with a distributed generation fuel cell. This assessment includes cost, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and criteria pollutant emissions. The cost analysis is based on a net present value analysis with a 20-year analysis period. Net present value analysis is independent from inflation and is often used to make a go/no go decision. The GHG emissions analysis is based on carbon dioxide emissions, and the criteria pollutant analysis is based on nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Emissions are based on EPA data for your area.


The analysis makes several assumptions in order to keep FCTAC a first-step assessment. The fuel cell type is selected and sized to handle the base load of the building. Base load is defined here as the minimum amount of energy used in the building in a week. By sizing the fuel cell for base load, the fuel cell can run consistently at full power without the need to turn down the output or to put energy back onto the grid. This is the simplest case for use of a stationary fuel cell. The tool also assumes that there will be a minimal amount of combined heat and power (CHP) if the fuel cell type is able to provide it. The install cost of the fuel cell is assumed to be $7,500 per kilowatt, which can vary by manufacturer and local requirements. The finance period is assumed to be 15 years with a 5 year depreciation period, a 6% interest rate, and a 3% inflation rate based on the MACRS database. Operation and Maintenance includes all regular costs associated with a fuel cell including restacking when recommended.


FCTAC was developed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Fuel Cell Technologies Office. FCTAC is based on the Distributed Generation Building Energy Assessment Tool (DG-BEAT) model, which was developed at NREL in conjunction with the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, with funding from the DOE Fuel Cell Technologies Office. If you would like to go more in depth with your building analysis, you can request your free copy of DG-BEAT from one of the contacts below. The DG-BEAT model is a fully encompassing model that can be used to further assess the impact of a stationary fuel cell on your building. More types of fuel cells are included as well as more uses of the fuel cells, such as load following or weekend dip. Exact building data and rate structures can be entered to give more realistic impacts than using the default building models and a single electricity rate. The DG-BEAT model can also make assessments on a fleet of buildings.


For more information about FCTAC, or to get a copy of the full DG-BEAT model, please contact:

Genevieve Saur

Matthew Post