The South African department of science and technology is running a Hydrogen fuel cell technology initiative and it is succeeding in trying to provide standby power in some schools in the Eastern Cape. The power which is generated by the fuel cells is used to support basic energy requirements such as, charging stations for tablets, fax machines and computers.
This initiative is part of a project led by the Department of Science and Technology, of which it has partnered with the private sector to use hydrogen fuel cell technology in three schools in Cofimvaba, namely, St Marks Junior Secondary School, Arthur Mfebe Senior Secondary School and Mvuzo Junior Secondary School.
“Success stories from other countries, like Japan, indicate that active public-private partnerships are critical in supporting the uptake of emerging technologies.” minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor said.
Giant mining company, Anglo American Platinum sponsored three platinum-based fuel cell systems, including installation and ongoing maintenance and operations. Air Products is supplying the hydrogen fuel requirements, while Clean Energy Investments, a South African company co-owned by the department and Anglo American Platinum, commissioned the fuel cells to bring standby power to the schools.
“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,” Pandor said.
Meanwhile, 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), has developed an educational programme that has been rolled out to schools in the area, teaching pupils about the science of fuel cells. To date, 3 500 schoolchildren from Grade R to Grade 12 at 26 schools in the region have benefited from this programme.
Head of marketing of Anglo American Platinum, Andrew hinkly 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 of Clean Energy Investments, added: “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”
Officially launched on 12 June, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor noted that the Cofimvaba initiative demonstrated that collaboration between the public and private sectors was essential to improving living conditions.