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ACT leads again with $180m investment in hydrogen storage and car fleet

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The ACT government has expanded its renewable energy ambition and plans to bring $180 million in investment in renewable energy-to-hydrogen energy storage technology to the national capital, including the first hydrogen-fuelled fleet in Australia.

The initiative was announced by environment and climate change minister Simon Corbell on Tuesday, who said the investment would include a $55 million hydrogen “electrolyser” and $125 million invested in R&D into renewables-to-gas from the developers of one of the ACT’s contracted wind farms.

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Corbell said in a statement the partnerships would position the ACT as a leader in a growing market, creating opportunities for local researchers and businesses.

“Hydrogen energy storage from 100% renewable energy is an important complementary technology with huge commercial potential,” Corbell said.

“This is another example of the ACT Government delivering jobs and investment for our community, and benefiting from our large-scale auctions.”

The investment has been made possible through the recent 200MW “next generation” renewables energy auction, which will also co-fund the rollout of 36MW of battery storage in 5,000 Canberra homes and businesses.

Neoen and Megawatt Capital (developers of the Hornsdale Wind Farm) will invest $55 million in partnership with Siemens and Hyundai to establish a 1.25MW hydrogen electrolyser, which converts electricity to hydrogen.

The initiative will include a refuelling station and service centre and an initial fleet of 20 hydrogen fuelled cars, including a technical support and research program. Siemens will also establish an office in Canberra’s renewable energy innovation precinct.

Union Fenosa, the developer of the Crookwell Wind Farm, will invest $125 million including a research and development partnership with the Australian National University and ActewAGL Distribution.

This will focus on renewable energy power to gas (ReP2G), investigating efficiencies in the production of hydrogen from renewables and how it can then be introduced to the ACT gas network or provide support to the electricity network.

A pilot testing facility will also be established in the ACT to produce hydrogen from water using the ACT’s 100% renewable electricity supply.

“Now that the ACT is set to have 100% renewable electricity by 2020, which will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 40% on 1990 levels, we can focus on reducing other sources of greenhouse gases and maintaining our position as a leader in energy innovation,” Corbell said.

“One of the next great challenges is our transport sector which will overtake electricity to be 60% of our city’s emission in 2020.

“The future for transport is clear – it is renewable and it is electric. Both batteries and hydrogen energy storage technologies may have important roles to play as we electrify our vehicle fleets, and have an electricity grid based on 100% renewable energy.

“Hydrogen technologies could be an important complementary technology to battery storage with several advantages as an energy storage medium.

“Hydrogen has a much higher energy density and, in the case of electric vehicles, it is much faster to fill a tank with hydrogen than to charge a battery from the grid. A higher energy density also means a longer driving range.

“Like batteries, hydrogen can be used to support a high penetration renewables grid drawing power when renewable production is excessive and producing power when renewable production is low. The only by-product of this process is pure water which can be recycled through the system.”

   

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  • Charles

    “leading” and “hydrogen” shouldn’t be in the same sentence together. What a waste of money!

    • Ren Stimpy

      Agree. It’s hard to criticise the ACT govt because they are one of the leaders of decarbonisation. But hydrogen? FFS. Electrons (not atoms) is the future.

  • Paul

    Hydrogen can be easily stored and transported, and has no greenhouse gas emissions. I commend Simon Corbell’s vision. Australia can look forward to being the Saudi Arabia of the future exporting emission free hydrogen around the world.

    • Charles

      Hydrogen can’t do anything that electricity can not, except for the advertised refuelling time of 3-5 minutes. Everything else about hydrogen fuel is extremely impractical and inefficient. With a battery electric vehicle, the “charging time” is irrelevant 90% of the time, since you start every day with a full charge and take 10 seconds to plug it in each night.
      Hydrogen is like petrol, where you need to visit a dedicated fuelling station and stand there while it fuels. A hydrogen fuelling system needs an entirely new generation, storage, distribution and delivery infrastructure to be built – unlike electricity where the existing grid can be used.

      • Matthew Wright

        And by the time hydrogen is deployed to do that fast charging in 5-10mins will be available for electric vehicles. It is coming it’s just a difficult technical challenge for scientists to crack and battery companies to subsequently implement. Initial work by NTU university in Singapore looks like they may have cracked it.

        • Not really. Lithium Titanate can be fast charged more than 10 times its rated capacity (i.e. 5 minute charge to full capacity). Albeit, delivering 240kW instantaneous power is the hurdle at the moment (if one to use Leaf capacity).

          However, I’ve just top-up my Leaf with fast charger for 5 minutes and I’m good to go again for an extra 25km. That maybe not enough to go long distance, but enough for me to go home.

          For long distance travel, I myself don’t mind stopping every 45 minutes or so for 20 minute break. I’ve done that on my Leaf with 2 kids for ‘long-range’ driving with DC fast charger (thank you RAC WA!).

          My second hand Leaf cost me less than AUD30k and 2 cents per km. Try that with hydrogen at the same cost!! Until they (the hydrogen camp) can deliver that, then I’ll buy one of their car.

    • Matthew Wright

      It can’t be easily stored and can’t be easily transported. Electrons can be easily installed and transported – that’s why a mass market for EV’s has developed and Tesla has released a model with a 500km range which will be what we get in the standard ones in 3 years or so. Hydrogen has huge round trip efficiency problems – it uses a lot more energy to power a hydrogen car than a battery electric. I’m glad that Toyota and Hyundai have wasted so much on hydrogen research because it may have flow on benefits but it will not be useful for transportation which will be dominated by Electric Vehicles

      • Yup, kudos to Toyota and Hyundai. They are perfect examples for others on failed experiment.

  • Matthew Wright

    This is a big mistake. They’ve done so well so far. They’d be better electrifying their government passenger, commmercial and bus fleets. And looking at the new target of 100% renewable energy within the geographical border of the ACT.

    A big mistake.

    • solarguy

      I agree with you Matt, not for vehicles. H2 efficiency is 60% round trip if it is burnt, but better through a fuel cell. Industry will require some however.

      This brings me to grid storage use, I would like to know what $/kwh is for H2 storage. Molten salt storage is currently $134/kwh and can be used from all renewable sources.

      If H2 storage is cheaper or likely to be in the future, then it could be considered.

      • Matthew Wright

        In this generation round trip would be closer to 45-50% but will improve if hydrogen gets legs and development continues. Whereas EV’s are 80-85% round trip. It’s not a good priority for a small government like ACT. They should be now looking at 100% net renewables within their borders as the next logical goal. Which will mean coating buildings in North East South West solar. In the original plan I presented to them I pushed for wind farms to be in the region ie they could be in NSW but within a few hundred kilometres but they’ve contracted wind in South Australia. So they are not self sufficient yet – that should come first before hydrogen which is really not at a commercial stage.

  • Ian

    Good thought, maybe, maybe not. It’s a pity that Canberra isn’t awash with water to support these brain farts. An alternative to natural gas is required, however the cost of such facilities needs to be understood, you can’t liquify hydrogen easily, it burns too easily and it makes steel brittle. I’ll wait to see whether this is a viable transport fuel or whether liquid batteries take over that role in the not-too-distant future.

  • Adam Parris

    I was horrified to read about some hydrogen nutter spooking the benefits farmers will receive by having some small DIY hydrogen station on their farm. As if farmers didn’t have a hard enough time during a drought, the hydrogen nutters now want them to choose between watering their cattle/crops or refueling their utes!

  • Terry J Wall

    Too much money wasted by the taxpayers. Too bigger superannuation schemes, too bigger salaries, too littler job risk or responsibility. When Australia is transparent about the size of the public pie that is gobbled up by the individual fat cats in Canberra (cannot blame them cause what else can you do in a day but lobby for more), then and only then, will the rest of us feel that the paddock is flat and fair.

    Woohhh! Don’t have any heart palpitations over the pending pain of openness and honesty, the pain is short and the feelings of goodness last a long time. When you guys take the medicine, it will be a lot easier to clean up the dreadful paper bag shenanigans in the private sector.

  • Craig Allen

    There is one transport mode for which this might work well – hydrogen fueled freight trucking.

    With two fuel depots, one at Goulburn and one on the outskirts of Melbourne you could convert the road freight fleet between Sydney and Melbourne to renewable hydrogen. Ramp up the construction of large scale renewables and eventually extend the concept up and down the East Coast from Cairns to Adelaide. About ten depots would cover the lot.

    This would concurrently enable the proportion of renewables on the grid to be pushed toward 100% without the need for so much battery storage.

    Because so few depots would be needed and a fraction of the number of vehicles, this would be a far cheaper way to deploy hydrogen transport. H2 cars don’t have a chance against electric cars anyway. But long-haul freight is unlikely to be able to be electrified any time soon.

    • solarguy

      A battery powered bus made it from Melbourne to Sydney on a single charge earlier this year. The future looks good for electric trucks.

      • Matthew Wright

        Also you can have hybridisation with overhead catenary on sections for battery charging etc. Ie large up hill sections could have electric catenary – but the best option is mode shifting the freight as much as possible to rail which is easy to electrify

        • solarguy

          In that case it might be better to have inductive charging buried in the roadway.
          But I think batteries should be able to provide 400-600km range for heavy road freight. After all rail doesn’t go every where.
          One thing that is on my mind is how to power coastal and international shipping, without using nuke power?

          • Michael Dufty

            Imagine if it was possible to propel ships with wind power….

        • Hear hear! The rail solution is no brainer. There is no technical hurdle and the cheapest to date to implement. Unfortunately people fall in love with their car too much already. When I was in Europe, LOTS of things freighted (yup, including the dreaded new cars) on electric trains.

  • Tomfoolery

    $180million for fuel cell technology? This has got to be one of the worst ideas Corbell has ever had. There’s no way hydrogen cars will take off.

    Firstly, they are not zero emission vehicles. Hydrogen is extracted almost exclusively using dirty fossil fuel power.

    Secondly, there is a huge issues for infrastructure – who is going to build all of the refuelling stations? You sure can’t refuel at home from your rooftop solar. That money will funnel back into the hands of the automotive and fossil fuel industry (this is why Toyota and other major automotive companies continue to advocate hydrogen at the expense of electric cars, a proven technology, not some pipe dream).

    Thirdly, anybody familiar with the periodic table knows that hydrogen is volatile and therefore dangerous. This means it’s hard to transport and you’re certainly not going to want to keep hydrogen reserves in every commercial and residential address. At least, not in the current policy landscape where we are so terrified at the thought of the next terrorist plot to kill us.

    Hydrogen is essentially a scam, and an expensive one at that, which is been pushed and pushed as a diversionary and obstructive tactic by entrenched interests to slow the advent of cheap and abundant renewable energy and electric mobility. They could at least have the decency to fund their ideas without public money – the taxpayers should be offended.

    • Read the story, there is no public money.

      • Tomfoolery

        Thanks for the clarification, Giles. Edited my comment.

  • Miles Harding

    This should sort out the Hydrogen economy … eventually.

    What is surprising is the amount of money and time some car makers and infrastrucure investors are keen to invest (ie waste) on hydrogen. There have been numerous ‘Windmill to Wheels’ studies that universally show distributed elecricity and batteries are some 2 to 3 times as efficient as hydrogen for vehicle propulsion. Undoubtedly the same will be demonstrated here, provided they don’t cheat with coal or natural gas feedstock.