A $160 million proposal for wind or solar powered hydrogen production in western Victoria is seeking government support to undertake a formal feasibility study, with the potential for the project to grow to a $1 billion investment opportunity in Australian renewable gas.
Work on the project is being driven by Country Wide Renewable Energy and has received support from the CSIRO, Deakin University and UK-based hydrogen equipment provider ITM Power. It proposes to build a $160 million solar farm, generating a total capacity of 80MW, and use the electricity generated to produce zero-emissions renewable hydrogen.
Country Wide Renewable Energy works with local governments to provide advice on how renewable energy developments can help support and expand local economies, particularly those undergoing transition from industries undergoing grant.
Victorian State government has been approached to seek financial support to tap into the western Victorian region’s abundant renewable energy supplies to examine the feasibility of producing renewable hydrogen for export.
Portland has served as a major economic hub for the region, and has been particularly reliant on the presence of Alcoa but is undergoing a transition as the company’s aluminium smelter struggles against surging electricity prices.
The proposed renewable hydrogen production facility would see renewable hydrogen being produced with an aim to use the Port of Portland as a hub for exporting the gas, either liquifying the gas or converting it to ammonia, to be sold into a growing global market.
The project would consider opportunities to supply hydrogen into the domestic gas market as well, taking advantage of the potential for renewable hydro to be used to supplement the mains gas supply with a zero-emissions alternative.
As reported in the Portland Observer, Country Wide Renewables director Geoff Drucker hopes to leverage government support to eventually expand the hydrogen production proposal to a $1 billion investment in wind, solar and hydrogen electrolysis infrastructure.
The group would then target major industrial companies in Japan and South Korea as potential purchasers of the renewable gas.
The project has the backing of Glenelg Shire Council, which as been an outspoken supporter of clean energy investment in the western Victorian region. The hydrogen production facility could bring a further 300 plus jobs to the region.
The council has lodged an application for funding on behalf of the project to the Victorian Hydrogen Investment Program established by the Victorian Government, which has set aside $2 million to support companies to undertake feasibility studies and develop a business case for investing in hydrogen production within Victoria.
The project is awaiting confirmation on whether it will receive $250,000 from the fund to support the completion of a feasibility study.
“As a shire we can all make steps towards achieving this bioeconomy, by investing in clean and green energy products to lower our carbon footprint and take action on climate change,” Glenelg Shire Councillor Anita Rank said.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future with national road maps being developed to create new opportunities to use the fuel as a gas constituent, decarbonising our economies whilst creating thousands of new jobs and export opportunities, fuelling Asia’s thirst for supply.”
“Hydrogen vehicles may soon be appearing in our regional areas, with plans being made for hydrogen heavy vehicles and trailers, and regional fuelling stations which our council is interested in exploring further,” Rank added.
Western Victoria has emerged as a hot spot for clean energy investment. The region has seen substantial investments in developing the region’s significant wind resources and is host to more than 1,300MW of wind generation capacity. This includes the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere, the 420MW Macarthur wind farm near the town of Hamilton.
Keppel Prince, Australia’s largest supplier of wind turbine towers, has its primary operations in Portland and has been followed by Danish wind farm company Vestas establishing manufacturing facilities in Geelong.
This investment has been driven by ambitious targets set by the Victorian government, which officially enshrined its 50 per cent by 2030 renewable energy target into law on Wednesday.