Powering Electricity in Africa’s Southern District, Free State

The world’s first platinum-using fuel cell mini-grid electrification field trial has officially been launched in the Free State.

Taking place  in the rural community of Naledi Trust, Free State, this 12-month trial involved powering 34 households by using a methanol fuel cell prototype product developed for use in off-grid residential application. Over the last 3 weeks, the fuel cell prototype has been powering electricity to the households, subsequent to the testing of the system.

Post the successful completion of the trial phase, plans were to proceed to a pilot test of the off-grid fuel cell technology, which entailed installing between 200 and 300 units in villages across rural South Africa by 2015.

This initiative has the potential to establish an entire fuel cell value chain in South Africa when sufficient scale is reached. This would create a new technology sector in South Africa and also provide opportunity for export of the value-added fuel cell products to other emerging markets.

Several manufacturing and service jobs have been created from this initiative, supporting South Africa’s mineral benefaction agenda and increase platinum demand of up to 7 500 oz over the next 15 years. Adding to this, platinum-based fuel cells provide incredible economic and environmental growth opportunities for South Africa by facilitating the provision of clean, reliable and cost-effective power.

The PGM Development Fund, to which Amplats earlier this year committed a further $100-million in addition to an initial $10-million, was established to provide capital for further PGM market development and beneficiation, particularly in Southern Africa. Amplats invests in early-stage commercialisation products capable of driving PGM demand in the long term. This included investments in market development and beneficiation across three broad demand segments, namely jewellery, investment and industrial use.


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