Fuel cells technology promises greener future

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    FUEL cells are a low maintenance and sustainable energy generating system using hydrogen and oxygen. First created in 1839, both NASA and Russia’s Mir space projects improved on fuel cell technology to power their onboard life-support systems.

    GenCell, an Israeli tech company, specializes in the commercial application of alkaline and ammonia-based fuel cells. Their team is composed of several former members of the aforementioned space projects and have been developing fuel cells for terrestrial use since 2011. Together with their Philippine distributor, Amorele, they have begun to introduce to our country a new and sustainable power source.

    A number of urban and rural institutions use diesel-powered generators as a form of primary or back-up power. These include hospitals, banks, telecommunication networks, military bases, and police stations. However, these generator sets can be expensive to run and releases pollutants as they operate. As

    “Diesel generators are unsustainable, so renewability is one of the foremost goals with our fuel cells. The idea is to provide reliable, weather independent, and clean energy,” GenCell CEO Rami Reshef explains.

    Their fuel cell generators are targeted for commercial and industrial use. Specifically, the company is targeting sectors which require near-100 percent uptime of services such as banks, ATMs, and telecommunication towers and equipment. The closed system also allows its units to be deployed to remote areas and off-grid towns.

    The company’s mission is to make acquisition, transition, and maintenance of their generators as simple as possible. Their fuel cells contain no moving parts, requiring only minimal maintenance to perform at peak efficiency. Owners are also given GenCell IoT, a smartphone application that allows them to remotely control and monitor all their generators, as well as access to a country-wide technical support system.

    With the app, owners can keep track of their generators in real time, allowing them to remotely activate back-up power in the event of a blackout. This app also warns both the owner and GenCell technicians of any errors or complications with the machine.

    “Once the generator is set, it’s ready to go, even in the worst of calamities. And even if any repairs are required – the IOT app automatically informs us of what we need to do, and we can prepare our technicians accordingly,” Reshef shares.

    The latter is a concern for more far-flung areas of the country, those deep within the mountains or along rough or non-existent roads. Instead of making multiple trips, once to check the problem and several more to procure specialized tools and perform the actual repair, technicians arrive on-site already aware of what they need to do.

    Ultimately, the company hopes that by increasing demand for their product in the country, production costs can be lowered.

    “This strategy ensures town, then city, then country-wide quality of life upgrades for Filipinos. As interest is generated for our product, production costs will decrease to the point that personal purchases become more affordable and viable,” says Reshef.

    The primary reason for this approach is the process every fuel cell has to go through to make it to the country. Each unit has to be assembled in Israel by GenCell partner, Flextronics, then shipped to the Philippines. Amorele was tapped to help make this process smoother moving forward.

    “We plan to make the Philippines a springboard for our technology to spread throughout Southeast Asia,” Reshef announces. “Malaysia, Indonesia… If there are countries that need a stable and renewable clean power source, we will be there to provide it.”

    “Once local production lines are set up, then more jobs will be generated. It’s a win for everyone involved. We already generate jobs nationwide for technicians and staff in support of our customers, and we are going to need more as we move forward with our projects,” Amorele CEO Alain Caparangan adds.

    Already the fuel cell supplier has made some headway into this brand-new market, with Amorele’s many dealers ensuring compatibility between GenCell generators and any hydrogen gas. The dealers of both the gas and the generators all provide access to IoT, and specialists from both companies will become available for customer support.

    Meanwhile, the latest version of GenCell’s fuel cells utilizes ammonia, an extremely common substance found everywhere, including fertilizers, cleaning products, and liquid animal waste. This is done via ammonia cracking, a process that separates ammonia into its base elements of one nitrogen atom and three hydrogen atoms with the help of a nickel catalyst.

    “Once more and more commercial industries use our generators, we can give a greater focus on producing lighter mobile fuel cells for use in vehicles and homes. It is our hope that one day, everyone in the world has access to a clean, renewable, and self-sustaining source of energy,” Reshef declares GenCell’s next steps.