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Ballard and Amplats launch fuel cell-powered microgrid

Wed, 08/06/2014 - 15:50 -- Laura Varriale
Ballard and Amplat's off-grid solution

Ballard Power Systems and Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) are to test a fuel cell-powered microgrid prototype in a remote rural community in South Africa.

The companies will power 34 households in a 12-month trial with a generator system that is fueled by methanol and uses platinum group metals as catalysts. The fuel cell system is integrated into a prototype off-grid solution incorporating a battery bank and inverters that operate within the microgrid.

The system is designed to provide a total of 15kW of power and generate peak power of 70kW.

"This field trial will provide valuable insight into the market requirements of off-grid communities,” said Andrew Hinkly, executive head of marketing at Amplats. South Africa’s Department of Energy (DOE) has chosen the rural community of Naledi Trust as a suitable site for the trial as the area does not have any access to grid power and expanding the national network would be too expensive.

The next phase of the project will be the installment of 200 to 300 units in remote villages across the country, according to Godfrey Oliphant, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources.

Ballard and Amplats are collaborating with power utility company Eskom and South Africa’s DOE to conduct the field test.