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Five Reasons UWC Is Pioneering The Hydrogen Power Future

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

Fuel cells were invented about 150 years ago by Welshman William Grove. They work by reverse electrolysis: instead of splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, fuel cells combine hydrogen and oxygen to form water to release the energy content.

(Published - 25 June 2018)

​With Eskom experiencing some technical difficulties, it’s time to remind ourselves that there are alternative energy sources. Hydrogen fuel cell technology, for example, is noiseless, effective, and pollution-free - the only emission is water. And UWC’s HySA Systems is leading the way when it comes to hydrogen technology.

That fleet of golf carts zipping around campus? They’re powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology (HFCT) courtesy of UWC’s Hydrogen Systems South Africa (HySA Systems) - and they yield the same benefits mentioned above.

HySA Systems - together with its many local and international partners - has also been responsible for many other HFCT breakthroughs in South Africa: the first hydrogen-powered tricycle, the first fuel cell backup power systems prototype for the telecommunications market, the first HFCT forklift and refuelling station, and the first loadshedding-beating hydrogen fuel cell generator for the UWC Nature Reserve. These breakthroughs ensure that the hundreds of unique and interesting plant and animal species in the reserve don’t have to worry about coal shortages or wage negotiations.

It’s not just about interesting gadgets and fancy technology, though.

“The HySA Programme can significantly contribute to South Africa’s sustainable economic efforts by providing sustainable and clean energy through the use of fuel cells for stationary, portable and transport applications,” says HySA’s Acting Director, Dr Sivakumar Pasupathi. “HySA shows how South Africa can extract value from our mineral endowment through research, development and innovation.”

Here are five reasons hydrogen fuel cell technology is amazing:

  1. Clean Energy: When hydrogen produced from clean (“green”) technologies is used in fuel cells, there is zero pollution. And no matter how the energy was initially generated, actually using HFCT produces only one ‘waste’ product: water.
  2. Reliability: HFCs are very reliable, which is essential for providing a high-quality, uninterrupted power supply. The lack of moving parts also minimises maintenance and operating costs. - and as a result, hydrogen fuel cells operate almost entirely in blissful silence.
  3. Efficiency: Fuel cells are highly efficient at converting fuel to electrical energy, compared to other electricity-generating technology.
  4. Flexibility: Not only can HFCs be used for a variety of applications, they can also operate on a wide load range and scale from micro-production to megawatt production.
  5. Local Is Lekker: South Africa is blessed with more than diamonds and gold - the country also has more than 75% of the world’s known platinum group metal reserves. These wear- and temperature-resistant metals have strong catalytic and stable electrical properties - all of which make them very useful in the hydrogen and fuel cell market, and can allow South Africa to take its place as a world leader in the hydrogen power economy.

“South Africa is facing an energy crisis, and beginning the difficult but important journey towards a hydrogen and fuel cell infrastructure, one that can change our lives for the better,” Dr Pasupathi notes. "By using hydrogen, for example, electrical power can be produced in remote areas and communities without access to the grid - and it would be a great success for South Africa to power the rural areas with home-grown technologies.”

Want to know more about hydrogen fuel cell technology, and how HySA is using it to power energy transformation in South Africa and beyond? Of course you do! So why not head over to HySA Systems and check it out for yourself?​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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