Hydrogen fuel cell technology is being used successfully to provide standby power in some schools in the Eastern Cape. The power generated by the fuel cells is used to support basic energy requirements, for example, charging stations for tablets, fax machines and computers.
The use of hydrogen fuel cell technology is part of a pilot project led by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
Speaking at the launch, the Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, noted that the Cofimvaba initiative demonstrated that collaboration between the public and private sectors was essential to improving living conditions in society.
"Success stories from other countries, like Japan, indicate that active public-private partnerships are critical in supporting the uptake of emerging technologies. The knowledge and experience gained from the Cofimvaba pilot project and others taking place throughout the country will not only promote awareness of the technology, but will assist in creating a market for technologies that are being developed through the Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Programme," said Minister Pandor.
HySA focuses on the development of high-value hydrogen fuel cell technology products that promote the beneficiation of the platinum group metals and has three centres of competence focusing on catalysis, infrastructure and systems integration.
Anglo Platinum, together with the Young Engineers and Scientists of Africa (YESA) group and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA), have developed an educational programme that has been rolled out to schools in the area, teaching learners about the science of fuel cells. To date, 3 500 learners from grade R to grade 12 at 26 schools in the region have benefited from this programme.
Andrew Hinkly, Executive Head Marketing of Anglo American Platinum said, "This collaboration provides the opportunity to demonstrate not only the technical ability of platinum-based fuel cells to power rural schools, but also contributes to the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning in a rural context."
Gavin Coetzer, the CEO of Clean Energy Investments, said, "As technology is incorporated into the education environment, power stability at schools is essential. Fuel cell standby power solutions are efficient, reliable, safe and, most importantly, quiet, ensuring a non-intrusive standby and – potentially – primary power solution."
The DST, through the TECH4RED (Technology for Rural Education Development) project, will during this year install two solar systems and a biogas system, and provide portable rechargeable batteries to learners with no electricity in their homes in the area.