Clean electricity anywhere: The HYMERA® fuel cell generator
Mobility isn’t everything. The controversy over road traffic emissions may dominate public perception, but road traffic causes only 23% of carbon dioxide emissions and 30% of NOx emissions in Europe, according to the European Environment Agency.
Power plants, for example, contribute a significantly larger share of harmful emissions. To successfully stave off climate change, societies must look beyond cars and trucks. BOC’s HYMERA® fuel cell technology, combined with the GENIE® lightweight hydrogen cylinder, is one small step in that direction.
One of the first hydrogen powered generators, HYMERA® can provide remote power at a third of the cost for loads up to 150 watts. This makes HYMERA® competitive compared to many small petrol and diesel generators. Unlike a diesel engine, however, it creates zero direct emissions, a factor that is becoming increasingly important in a low-carbon environment. Its companion, GENIE®, is a 22-kilogram cylinder containing enough hydrogen to generate six to seven kilowatt hours of electricity. “Together, they form a reliable, low-maintenance and affordable solution to provide power to remote locations”, says Mark Griffin, Clean Fuels Market Development Manager at BOC, a subsidiary of the Linde Group.
HYMERA® is not just about remoteness. Many BOC clients use the technology in urban locations, for example in London, as temporary connections to the grid are often difficult to establish.
While, currently, cylinder hydrogen is more expensive than diesel, the overall cost is lower due to the fuel cell’s greater efficiency, Griffin explains. Additionally, a fuel cell requires less maintenance work, thereby reducing its running costs further. Hydrogen is also likely to become even more affordable as the hydrogen economy develops.
»In terms of power output, two cylinders weighing 44 kilos equal some 500 kilos of lead-acid batteries. Given that we are speaking about remote and hard to reach locations, this is not an insignificant factor.«
As the widespread use of hydrogen as an energy carrier is still in its infancy, however, Griffin and his colleague Stewart Dow are particularly proud that HYMERA® is commercially viable. “It does not and has not received any government or other funding,” Griffin says.
The lightweight nature of the cylinders is another benefit. “A battery providing a comparable energy output would be much heavier”, says Stewart Dow, Product and Market Development Manager for fuel cells at BOC. “In terms of power output, two cylinders weighing 44 kilos equal some 500 kilos of lead-acid batteries. Given that we are speaking about remote and hard to reach locations, this is not an insignificant factor,” says Griffin.
HYMERA® spectacularly proved its abilities at the 2014 Remote Performances. During the week-long event, artists created programmes and acoustic performances at Outlandia, a tree house and artists’ retreat in the Scottish Highlands at the foot of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain. HYMERA® provided them with energy to broadcast their programmes live on a London-based radio station. More commonly, HYMERA® is used to deliver power, for example, to drinking water monitoring systems in the English countryside.
Working longer hours
When used with a battery, GENIE® can support a three watts monitoring and alarm system running continuously for nearly three months, or a 20 watts security camera system for more than 300 hours. Cylinders can be combined for longer run-times or, alternatively, the unit can be coupled with solar powered panels for further prolonged energy requirements.
HYMERA® supports a wide range of commercial and industrial off-grid applications, such as environmental monitoring and process control systems and task lighting for example for railway and tunnel maintenance work. It supports, for example, the Ecolite-TH200 lighting system, a set of spotlights often used on construction sites. Emitting no harmful exhausts, it is ideally positioned to power lighting either in a closed environment or where strict environmental restrictions apply. The system is also virtually silent, which is particularly important when it comes to nighttime working hours.
First brought to market in 2011, BOC has sold more than 1,000 HYMERA® units so far. Going forward, Griffin, Dow and their colleagues aim to produce smaller units delivering between 20 and 60 watts. This significantly reduces the upfront investment cost, thereby taking another small step towards the wider use of alternative energies.
HYMERA® is ideally positioned to provide power in environmentally sensitive and difficult to reach locations.