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Plug Power CEO says business could triple in size in the next 5 years


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Plug Power CEO Andy Marsh says the Latham, New York, manufacturer could have more than 60,000 of its fuel cell units at more than 500 sites across the world by 2022.

As the cost of making the fuel cells decreases, and the global market for fuel cells expands, Marsh said Plug could have annual deployments of $500 million in the next five years compared to $180 million today.

"Plug Power, being an early innovator, is well poised to become a significant player as the market grows,” Marsh said during a special meeting with investors and analysts on Wednesday. The audio from the meeting was broadcast online.

Plug Power (Nasdaq: PLUG) makes fuel cells, called GenDrive, used to power forklifts in warehouses and distribution centers. Fuel cells are seen as an alternative to lead-acid batteries. As part of the package, Plug offers hydrogen fueling stations called GenFuel to attract more recurring revenue. The full system is called GenKey.

Today, Plug has shipped almost 19,000 GenDrive fuel cell units powering industrial electric vehicles for some of the largest companies in the world, including Home Depot (NYSE: HD), Nike (NYSE: NKE) and Carrefour, Europe's largest big-box store.

The company has around 400 engineers, researchers and technologists in Albany.

Marsh has said the fuel cell economy is at an inflection point. He expects the industry to become more in-demand as companies like Toyota put fuel cell cars on the road in California, and countries in Europe and Asia make it a priority.

In the last year, Plug Power has signed major contracts with Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), and recently completed its first shipment of ProGen engines for FedEx’s (NYSE: FDX) electric delivery van fleet.

Plug has also had some tough breaks this year, including the dissolution of the federal fuel cell tax credits that were crucial for Plug's business to grow in the U.S.

Marsh estimated on Wednesday that if the tax breaks had continued, Plug's third quarter would have likely seen revenues of $80 million, instead of revenues of $61.4 million.

"The fact that we’ve been able to navigate through no support through government is a testimony to the value of the products we’ve been selling as well as the ingenuity of the organization to adjust during difficult times," Marsh said. 

The uncertainty around Plug's future prospects, and the fact that the company has yet to turn a profit, have brought the stock up and down this year, selling for a low of 85 cents in February to a high of $3.15 in early November.

Plug's stock was selling around $2.31 on Wednesday afternoon

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