A pair of companies is working on a fuel cell to power mini grids in South Africa. Anglo American Platinum, South Africa, and Ballard Power Systems, Canada, are developing the product which would supply power at 230 volts, alternating current.
African Review of Business and Technology reports that the fuel cell would use methanol as fuel and is being seen as an economically viable alternative to extending grid transmission lines to back of the behind areas.
A grid powered by such a device can support charging of electronic devices besides operating television sets, radios, electric lighting, refrigerators and cooking devices.
Further, the projects would be less expensive than operating diesel generators and PV mini-grid systems in rural communities.
Ben Turok, professor and director of Institute for African Alternatives, says fuel cells are an emerging alternative technology as the country faces grid capacity constraints, rising costs and long lead times for rural electrification. “Besides socio-economic benefits of access to power for rural uplift, establishment of a local fuel cell industry develops new skills and creates jobs in line with objectives of the National Development Plan,” Turok says.
Communities with low- to medium-density of 50 to 200 homes which are farther than 22 km from the existing grid are suitable for such projects, according to a report.
Kleantha Pillay, the head of market development with Anglo American Platinum, stated: “The development and commercialisation of platinum-based fuel cell technology is aimed at increasing the demand for platinum mined in South Africa, besides ensuring sustainable markets for the country’s metals.”
Ajith Kumar S