Special Demonstration Projects


The use of renewable hydrogen and fuel cell technology to produce electricity has been demonstrated by three HySA centers at Poelano High School in Goedgevonden, in the North-West province. The 2.5kW HySA-developed fuel cell system, with renewable hydrogen production and storage on site, was launched by Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane on April 13 2018, and is now a reliable source of power for the rural school. It is estimated that more 5 000 schools and clinics across the country have little or no access to reliable electricity. In parallel with the PV and battery system, the 2.5kW fuel cell system will be capable of powering all the school power needs.

Minister of Science and Technology Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane viewing the demonstration by HySa Infrastructure Hydrogen South Africa at the launch of the HFCT system at Poelano High School in Ventersdorp, North West. (Photo: Bruce Meaker)

The school of 486 pupils was specifically chosen for the project, which is intended to showcase the ability of renewable energy to meet the needs of communities where they have no access to Eskom power. Rural schools like this one faces problems with the affordability and reliability of electricity. Grants provided to such schools are not sufficient to cover the school’s requirements, resulting in money being owed to Eskom and power being cut off.

The off-grid energy system consists of PV, lead-acid batteries, a PEM electrolyser, bulk hydrogen storage tubes, and a 2.5 Kw fuel cell system. The components work together to provide the school with uninterrupted electricity. The school electrical loads are divided into essential and non-essential loads. The non-essential loads include the teacher’s lounge where a kettle and a microwave oven is located. These loads are powered directly from Eskom and will not affect teaching and offices if grid power is not available. Essential loads include all class rooms, the kitchen and the office. In the kitchen only a fridge and freezer is powered from the system.

The system operates as follows:

  • The 17 kW PV system on the roof of the school generates electrical power
  • MPPT converters charge the batteries, and supply energy through the charge controllers to the school and electrolyser when it is running.
  • The electrolyser is controlled to only produce hydrogen when PV power is available.
  • The electrolyser and the fuel cell are controlled that they can never operate together.
  • The batteries are used to produce power when required, and as buffer for fuel cell start-up.
  • When the fuel cell is operating, it produces power, until the batteries are fully charged, meaning they have gone through the four stages of charging.

The control philosophy of the hydrogen system works on Battery SO (voltage). The operation control philosophy of the systems is as follows:

  • The electrolyser can only turn ON
    • When PV power is available, AND
    • if the fuel cell is not running.
  • If the batteries’ SOC is <85% the fuel cell will turn ON.
  • The fuel cell will remain on until
    • The batteries have been equalization charged for 4 hours, OR
    • Hydrogen in the storage tubes is depleted.
  • If the batteries’ SOC <75%, the charge controllers will switch to grid power.

Poelano High School hydrogen and fuel cell based energy system block flow diagram with specifications.

Media Coverage

Poelano High School Gallery (Visit gallery for additional photos)