- Aimée Elizabeth Clarke
Hydrogen fuel! We’ve all heard about it, but usually from movies or news items from the first world. What you probably haven’t heard about is how South Africa is making leaps towards commercial hydrogen fuel. It’s pretty cool (and not just because hydrogen is stored at sub-zero temperatures).
Late last year HydroSA launched their new Infrastructure centre in Pretoria. There was an awesome launch where we got to meet some truly spectacular students and scientists – South Africans who are working hard to make hydrogen fuel a reality. And they are getting close! (Like in-the-next-ten-years close). It might be the slightly sheltered white girl in me, but it was exciting to see young black students showing us their idea of the future of South Africa and actually working towards it. A nice change from the usual “If [insert any politician’s name here] becomes president, I’m leaving!”
The event took place at the CSIR premises where the centre is situated, and included a tour of the new world-class research facilities. When I say world class I mean robots and big machines doing some mind-blowing things like taking hydrogen gas and making a little round tablet-like fuel cell that can fit in your pocket. The aim of opening the facility is to find ways of overcoming various challenges which are faced in the field of renewable fuel and energy storage. For those who don’t know, hydrogen is tough to store and has to be kept under immense pressure. It is also difficult to transport because it can’t be pumped through pipelines. But it has zero emissions and has the potential to produce electricity with high efficiency.
Imraan Patel, who spoke on behalf of Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, said that Hydrogen fuel could also play a significant role in supplying energy to the 18% of South Africans living in rural areas which are not on the conventional power grid. These areas are difficult to connect to the power grid due to low housing density and difficult terrain. Hydrogen and fuel cell technologies have the potential to bring power to these places. That’s about 9 million people who can get electricity for the first time. Even better, they don’t have to sacrifice the air they breathe (think rural Wild Coast with power, minus pollution).
Hydrogen fuel is just one of many projects doing well in South Africa that we never hear about because everyone is worried about everything that is not doing so well. I will not deny that there is a time and a place for worry. But at some point you just have to look over to the brighter side and find something to ease your mind. Next time you find yourself sitting in the darkness of your load-shedded home, think about something you’d really like to see happening in South Africa. Google it. I bet you will find someone somewhere in South Africa making it happen. And if by some small chance you can’t find anything – why don’t you give it a go? Start small. Start somewhere. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
We are more powerful than we know!
We Are Rainbow.