Canadian fuel cell manufacturer, Ballard Power Systems, Anglo American Platinum, Eskom and the South African Department of Energy have partnered to deliver an off grid fuel cell solution to power 34 homes in Naledi Trust, a village in the country’s Free State Province.

The rural town receives electricity from 5KW Ballard fuel cells, which are integrated into a prototype off grid system that includes a battery bank and inverter which operates within a microgrid. The trial is aimed at evaluating the potential of fuel cells systems to provide power to rural African homes.

"This field trial will provide valuable insight into the market requirements of off-grid communities," Andrew Hinkly, Amplats' executive head of marketing, said in a statement accompanying the launch of the trial on Tuesday.

"The fuel cell product has significant market potential in South Africa and the rest of Africa. When commercialized, these products will provide an opportunity to create jobs in South Africa."

The system is able to generate 15KW of electric power and with the aid of batteries, can generate up to 70KW. The fuel cells run on methanol and are set in platinum which is a vital factor for “Ballard’s proton exchange membrane fuel cell products” reports South Africa Info.

Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant said: "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 7 500 ounces over 15 years through the creation of a new market."

Together with the year-long field trial, Ballard will continue to work with Amplats to develop an economical methanol fuel reformer and long life fuel cell stack for that’s suited for commercial households.