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Air Liquide installs first fuel cell on isolated site in Belgium

Air Liquide recently started up the first hydrogen fuel cell system on a remote site in Belgium. This fuel cell solution is an alternative power supply for telecom antennas in isolated locations, or which are difficult to connect to the power grid, while also reducing CO2 emissions.

The site in Wemmel, operated by telecom firm Belgacom, has been powered since the end of January by a hydrogen PEM fuel cell system developed by Axane, a subsidiary of the Air Liquide Group. Axane fuel cell systems are distributed in Belgium by Locquet Motors.

The system installed in Wemmel supplies electricity at 230 Vac to a 3G antenna with an average power of 500 VA. The full service fuel cell solution includes the hydrogen supply, system operations, and maintenance of the fuel cell, as well as telemonitoring of the system.

To offer its users optimal coverage throughout Belgium, Belgacom sets up antennas in sites that are isolated from the power grid. While awaiting connection to the grid, these antennas are temporarily powered by generators. Belgacom is now testing fuel cell technology, to develop antennas powered by a silent, reliable, and high-performance energy supply that could replace these generators.

Air Liquide says that, from the production of hydrogen to its use, a fuel cell system reduces CO2 emissions by 35 tonnes per annum compared with a generator. With a technical life of 12 000 hours, Axane’s hydrogen PEM fuel cell systems are a competitive alternative, in particular because of their optimised maintenance costs.

Air Liquide and Axane have installed more than 100 fuel cell systems on telecom sites around the world since 2010. Two years ago Air Liquide Hydrogen Energy signed an innovative distributor agreement with UPS Systems, to offer fuel cell systems for remote locations to end-users in the UK.

Axane has also created a joint venture with US-based fuel cell manufacturer Plug Power – called HyPulsion – to meet growing demand for the latter’s GenDrive® fuel cell products across the European materials handling market.

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