ANGLO American Platinum (Amplats) was testing the world’s first power grid driven by fuel cells as an alternative electricity source for remote areas where expanding the national grid would be too costly, the top platinum producer said yesterday. Amplats and Ballard Power Systems would power 34 households for 12 months with a prototype, which was fuelled by methanol and used platinum group metals as catalysts, Amplats chief executive Chris Griffith said at the Naledi Trust community near Kroonstad. Karim Kassam, the vice-president of business development at Canadian firm Ballard, said methanol-fuelled systems were already used as back-up power sources on cellphone masts. Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant said the successful completion of this phase would see the technology being rolled out “with a pilot test of 200 to 300 units in villages across rural South Africa by 2015”. Amplats said the system was designed to provide 15 kilowatts of electricity generated from fuel cells and could supply up to 70kW with battery support. “The purpose of this trial is to validate technical and operating requirements,” Amplats marketing head Andrew Hinkley said. This included the logistics of fuel delivery, as well as “the consumer’s electricity utilisation patterns”. Griffith said Amplats was also testing the use of platinum fuel cell technology in mining equipment. – Bloomberg