BOC, part of The Linde Group, has launched an new fuel-cell powered electricity generator.

The new generator brings the benefits of hydrogen fuel to small-scale, energy-efficient technologies like lighting and cordless power tools, especially in locations where there is no access to grid-supplied electricity.

Fuel-cells have been talked about for many years as a power source of the future; the new Hymera makes it available for today’s off-grid tasks.

Being hydrogen-powered, the only emissions are water or water vapour, and unlike conventional diesel or petrol generators, the Hymera unit from BOC is efficient, clean and quiet, and has a much lower carbon footprint.

“It is not often that a new and practical alternative to conventional fuels becomes available but the Hymera does just that – it brings hydrogen power to today’s marketplace,” explained Stewart Dow, Packaged Energy Manager at BOC.

“The portable power generator is ideal for high-tech, low energy technologies like LED floodlighting and for charging cordless tools on site. One unit can provide enough power to light up a tennis court – it has already been successfully tested for theatre lighting and also in the rail industry. Hymera is an environmentally-friendly alternative to diesel or petrol powered generators and marks the start of a new age in off-grid power generation.”

Hydrogen fuel cells are almost silent, so they can be used in situations where noise is an issue – for example in residential areas at night.

Reducing the exposure of employees to continuous high levels of noise is also an increasingly important concern for many companies. Because they do not emit any potentially harmful substances (like carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide) the Hymera can be used in places where these types of emissions could become problematic.

Hydrogen fuel cells generate electricity from the reaction of hydrogen with oxygen from the air. Like a battery, a fuel cell employs an electrochemical process that produces no sound and is very efficient. BOC have developed a lightweight hydrogen cylinder to go with the Hymera, keeping overall weight as low as possible.

The other great advantage of fuel cells is that they can be built to virtually any scale (from a few Watts to a several Megawatts) while still maintaining their very high efficiency. By contrast, petrol and diesel generators (the smallest is just under 1kW) have very poor efficiency at low and part load – less than 5% in some cases. So there is no benefit in using a high efficiency floodlight rather than a conventional tungsten floodlight with a petrol or diesel generator – the fuel consumption per hour would only be reduced by a small amount. While other technologies, such as lighting, computing and visual displays, have made big improvements in efficiency (i.e. they do the same work as before but use much less energy), petrol and diesel generators have not downsized to match the reduced power requirement of many loads.

BOC is working with a number of partners – including Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, UPS Systems, Arcola Energy and White Light Ltd – to make the product available for a wide range of applications.