South Australia is already tops for solar and wind use in Australia, crossing over its 50 per cent generation goal from these clean renewable sources last year – eight years ahead of schedule.
Soon the state is will be Australia’s (and a world) leader in battery storage, led by its government’s new tender for a 100MW/100MWh battery system for the state’s grid, plus the other private initiatives from the Lyon Group, AGL’s 1,000 battery virtual power plant in Adelaide, and other companies building large storage systems in the state.
It also is likely to become a leader in new large scale pumped hydro storage thanks to Energy Australia’s detailed work now being done on the feasibility of building a 100MW version near Whyalla in the state’s North, thanks to support funding from ARENA.
Finally, the most high-profile and long-fought-for renewable project in the state – the 24/7 despatchable solar thermal plant near Port Augusta – will now hopefully get over the line, thanks to a new $110M low-cost loan that SA Senator Nick Xenophon was able to wrench out of the federal government last month.
However, South Australia might soon have a new clean feather to add to its cap:
Last Friday, the state’s Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis surprised most at a CEDA lunch to announce the state will also now go heavily in to implementing a hydrogen industry, leveraging the state’s increasing supply of clean and low cost- renewable energy to power the creation of this fuel from water.
Hydrogen is well known as a clean way to power transport – from cars to trucks to trains and eventually planes potentially, and for driving power turbines and other equipment needing large amounts of power quickly on demand. Best of all is that it does it all without the pollution (assuming water vapour from the tailpipe noone considers pollution!).
The Minister presented a set of slides on this new goal, with the “aim to capitalise on our abundance of renewable resources to become the green hydrogen capital of Australia”.
The hydrogen fuel would not just be for local state use, but as a new export industry both to other states and internationally. The Minister conceded Victoria was currently ahead of South Australia, but said the state will be able to leverage its existing strong engineering expertise in gas processing, pipelines and storage. He also said Asia, in particular Korea and Japan, are large potential markets for hydrogen.
He noted that Japan’s next Olympics will be powered by hydrogen, and that there have already been discussions with companies in that country. In Korea, the Mayor of Seoul has set the goal of having a zero emissions economy, and that hydrogen from South Australia is an option, with us being able to generate it less expensively than many other regions due to the state’s exceptionally high levels of solar irradiation and wind energy along its coastlines.
The focus areas are to be “downstream” – to decarbonise the state’s transport, agriculture and industry, “up stream” – to develop a hydrogen export industry and to stabilize further the state’s electricity grid, and engineering expertise is to be built up in the areas of:
– Hydrogen storage, compression and dispensing infrastructure
– Fuel cell buses and trucks
– Fuel cell applications in defence
– Stand alone fuel cells
Luddite-like leaders in other parts of Australia may still want to focus us on old 20th century fuels – exporting polluting fossil-fuel based gas and coal. In contrast, South Australia’s leaders are now focusing the state on using and exporting a 100% cleaner 21st century gas, with no polluting of the environment plus it is a resource that will never be depleted.
So will the state’s car numberplates soon have this as the new description: “South Australia – the Hydrogen State”?
Valdis Dunis is development manager of the Solar Project.