Hydrogen Powers Covid19 Field Hospital in South Africa

  • The South African government, in collaboration with the private sector, is putting plans in place to roll out hydrogen fuel cell technologies in various parts of South Africa.
  • These will serve as alternative energy sources to the country’s electricity grid.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara said that such partnerships will enable government to take alternative energy sources to rural areas while also contributing to the growth of the country’s green economy.

Dr Mjwara was speaking at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria on Wednesday, where government has set up a field hospital to prepare for the potential increase in COVID-19 patients.

Field hospital at at South Africa’s 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria. Credit: ANA

The department unveiled seven hydrogen fuel cell systems as the primary power source for the field hospital, which has facilities for testing and screening, as well as life-saving equipment such as ventilators in the intensive care unit.

The project is a partnership between the DSI, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the Department of Defence and private companies including, Bambili Energy, which is committed to commercialising intellectual property developed through the DSI’s Hydrogen South Africa (HySA) Programme.

Mjwara said that Bambili Energy is working on an initiative to take some of these fuels cells to rural areas in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces.

“This is the start, but the idea is to roll the project out to various parts of South Africa,” said Mjwara.

Hydrogen fuel cell technologies are globally recognised for their potential to decarbonise the energy and transport sectors. Fuel cells produce electricity by means of a chemical reaction, using hydrogen as the basic fuel and platinum-based catalysts. Besides being efficient and reliable, fuel cells can be deployed rapidly and scaled up easily as the need arises, and their maintenance costs are relatively low.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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