Arcola to produce 500W fuel-cell lighting system

A British firm is hoping to help music festivals and other arts events reduce their carbon emissions with a portable hydrogen fuel cell.

London-based Arcola Energy has won £25,000 from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to develop a 500W version of its existing fuel-cell LED lighting system, which the firm claims could reduce emissions by 90 per cent compared to conventional lighting.

HyLight150, the proof-of-concept device launched earlier this year, combines a hydrogen fuel cell made by gas producer BOC, as well as a battery and back-up mains electricity supply.

A control system referred to as ‘The Brain’ maintains a constant power supply to prevent the LEDs from going out and entering a new start-up cycle if the power sources need to switch over.

Arcola’s executive director Ben Todd told The Engineer the product was a way of turning a relatively small engineering input into a big output in an industry that was already taking steps to reduce its carbon emissions.

‘Very often at outdoor events you’ll find lots of diesel generators around but increasingly there’s a shift to low-energy lighting,’ he said.

‘The point of this is to put the whole thing together, providing the power, the lighting and the control. It’s difficult to do on a massive scale but with these simple events you can demonstrate the benefit you get.’

He added that the increase in energy efficiency was so great that it was a big step change even if the hydrogen didn’t come from carbon-neutral sources.

‘The fuel cell runs at about 50 per cent efficiency and the diesel generators at five per cent. Even taking into account the energy consumed in making and shifting the hydrogen, you’re still looking at massive efficiency savings. Green hydrogen is a bonus.’

The hydrogen currently comes from a small cylinder that can provide 50 hours of power at 150W and can be easily transported and operated.

For the 500W unit, Arcola plans to integrate the fuel cell into its device by partnering with Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, in order to reduce the costs to the consumer.

The company’s engineers also need to develop the system so it can cope with the difficult start-up cycle of the growing number of AC LEDs used by the industry

‘A lot of fuel cells have been built for really challenging industrial applications,’ said Todd. ‘What we want is a relatively lightweight, not over-engineered solution with some of these difficult and specific electronic issues overcome.’