At first glance, the Cape Flats Nature Reserve building at the University of the Western Cape doesn’t seem exceptional.
The modest two-storey structure hosts office space and utility rooms for the six staff who care for the plants and animals living in the 30-hectare reserve.
But the building is a major milestone in South Africa’s struggle to ease its dependence on fossil fuels. It runs on hydrogen, an infinitely renewable fuel that, when used to generate power, produces no emissions apart from water and heat.
The building’s electricity is supplied by a prototype hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) power generator that was launched in November by the university’s Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Systems Centre of Competence.
Developed in collaboration with local heating-technology company Hot Platinum, the generator is a testament to South Africa’s advances in hydrogen fuel cell technology.
In a country struggling with blackouts, energy shortages, high tariffs and years of under-investment in power infrastructure, it offers the hope that hydrogen could be an answer to South Africa’s search for reliable alternative energy sources.
NO EMISSIONS, NO NOISE
“The generator produces electricity in an environmentally friendly way, without pollution or noise,” said Piotr Bujlo, leader of the generator project and a technology specialist at HySA Systems.
Fuel cells are already used to power vehicles and provide power in remote or inaccessible places, including on space capsules and satellites.