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Ballard and Anglo American launch field trial of methanol-fueled fuel cell home generator in rural South Africa

6 August 2014

Ballard Power Systems and Anglo American Platinum, the world’s largest primary producer of platinum, launched a field trial of a methanol-fueled home generator system in an off-grid residential application. Ballard and Anglo American Platinum have partnered with Eskom, South Africa’s power utility, and The Department of Energy of South Africa to conduct the 12-month field trial.

The trial is being conducted in the rural community of Naledi Trust, identified by South Africa’s Department of Energy as a suitable site, without access to grid power. Naledi Trust is part of the Moqhaka Local Municipality in the southern part of the Fezile Dabi District of the Free State province of South Africa.

The trial utilizes Ballard’s commercially proven 5 kW ElectraGen-ME fuel cell system, integrated by Anglo American Platinum into a complete prototype off-grid solution, including a battery bank and inverter operating within a micro-grid.

The system is designed to provide a total of 15 kW of fuel cell-generated electric power and can generate peak power of 70 kW with the support of batteries. This configuration will power the 34 rural homes in the Naledi Trust community. Monthly delivery of liquid methanol fuel to an external storage tank will enable uninterrupted primary power to these homes.

The field trial is intended to validate technical and operating requirements of a home generator product for off-grid applications in South Africa. Other important factors also being assessed include the logistics of fuel delivery, rural consumer electricity usage patterns as well as ongoing product maintenance requirements.

Last year the South African government made a commitment of investment funding to support home generator field trials, reinforcing support for that country’s fuel cell industry.

A number of manufacturing and service jobs can be created from this initiative, providing an opportunity for export of value-added products to other emerging markets. This will create a new technology sector in the country. It also, significantly, supports the South African Beneficiation strategy by creating additional platinum demand of up to seven-thousand-five-hundred (7,500) ounces over fifteen (15) years through the creation of a new market.

—Godfrey Oliphant, Deputy Minister of South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources

In parallel with the 12-month field trial, ongoing development work at Ballard will continue on a new lower cost methanol fuel reformer and longer life fuel cell stack for a commercial version of the home generator, under a Product Development Agreement signed with Anglo American Platinum and announced in 2012.

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