SA to test fuel cell ‘home generator’

19 June 2013

The South African government is to provide investment funding to support field trials of a prototype methanol-fuelled “home generator” with the potential to provide economical electric power to remote rural African households.

As part of its beneficiation strategy, and in a bid to extend the uses of platinum, the government will partner with Canadian company Ballard Power Systems and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) on initial field trials of the product the two companies have been working on developing.

Making the announcement at the Hydrogen + Fuel Cells 2013 International Conference and Exhibition in Vancouver, Canada this week, Godfrey Oliphant, South Africa’s deputy mineral resources minister, said projects such as this “are key in the development of new technologies which will stimulate the creation of jobs for the South African economy”.

Aimed at addressing the needs of households in remote rural communities not connected to a power grid, the home generator will be built with Ballard fuel cells and run on readily available methanol fuel, using an integrated fuel reformer.

Initial field trials, to be conducted during 2014, will provide data to support further development of the prototype. In 2015, once the product development phase is complete, a pilot test of more than 200 units will be conducted in villages across rural South Africa.

Platinum-based fuel cells could provide a significant economic and environmental development opportunity for South Africa, opening the way for the provision of clean, reliable and cost-effective power.

South Africa holds 75% of the world’s supply of platinum, a key component of Ballard’s proton exchange membrane fuel cell products.

Amplats head of marketing Andrew Hinkly said the companys’ involvement in fuel cell market adoption “extends beyond the implications for platinum utilisation to the potential transformational impact fuel cells could have on the economy in South Africa.

“Fuel cell-based product deployments enable the platinum beneficiation strategy in Africa and create jobs in a key growth sector for the economy.”

SAinfo reporter