Ballard Power Systems has shipped its 500th methanol-fueled telecom backup power system, since expanding its product line in August 2012 via the acquisition of key assets from IdaTech. (Earlier post.) Ballard offers both ElectraGen-ME liquid-fueled methanol systems as well as ElectraGen-H2 gaseous hydrogen-fueled systems.
Methanol is a readily available fuel that maximizes flexibility for siting and supporting a fuel cell system, such as the ElectraGen-ME. The ElectraGen-ME system, which comes in 2.5 kW and 5 kW configurations, has an integrated fuel reformer that converts HydroPlus (a methanol-water liquid fuel mixture) into hydrogen gas to power the fuel cell system. Ballard’s products are being sold through distribution partners that include Nokia Siemens Networks, Motorola, Cascadiant, Azure, Inala Technologies and Precision Power and Air.
In regions such as Southeast Asia and South Africa, where Ballard is actively engaged, electricity grids can be unreliable. As a result, telecom networks are vulnerable to frequent grid outages, impacting continuity of service to subscribers. In these situations, lead acid batteries and diesel generators are not necessarily a practical or financially attractive means of providing backup power, whereas fuel cell systems can offer a reliable, economic alternative in addition to being a clean energy solution.
In these and other geographies, beyond grid unreliability, power disruptions also occur as the result of natural disasters and extreme weather conditions. For example, in the span of a few years, there have been numerous earthquakes in various parts of Asia, a catastrophic tsunami in Japan and Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean and US. The resulting power disruptions from such events cause service outages in communication networks at critical times. This reality is putting a higher focus on the need for extended duration backup power solutions in telecom networks, which in turn is leading to a heightened interest in fuel cell systems, a proven solution for extended duration backup power.
This heightened interest has translated into growing demand for fuel cell telecom backup power solutions, both gaseous hydrogen fueled as well as liquid methanol fueled. In 2012 Ballard shipped approximately 400 ElectraGen backup power systems, comprising 240 methanol-fueled and 160-hydrogen fueled.