The remote coastal Western Australian town of Denham may become the latest host to a hydrogen production pilot project, as Horizon Power seeks to overhaul the town’s electricity generation system with one of Australia’s first working examples of hydrogen energy storage.
The community at Denham, located on Western Australia’s west coast around 100km south of Carnarvon, is currently supplied power through a combined diesel and wind generation system.
However, both components are reaching the end of their operational life, and Horizon Power is looking to replace the small-grid system with a combination of wind, solar and diesel back up.
The current collection of four wind turbines, that supply a combined 920kW of electricity generation to the town’s approximately 750 residents, were installed at the Denham community between 1997 and 1999, and have been operating for over 20 years.
In addition, Horizon Power is examining the potential of using hydrogen production as part of the communities energy system, as a demonstration of the role it can play in energy storage.
“As part of our commitment to deliver cleaner, greener energy to our regional customers, we want to investigate the potential to develop a hydrogen demonstration plant to test the suitability and capability of hydrogen as a renewable energy source for electricity generation in the future,” Horizon Power CEO Stephanie Unwin said.
“Proving the reliability of such a hydrogen plant provides the opportunity to expand the plant to supply the full power requirements for the town in the future.”
Excess electricity produced by a new solar farm could be used to produce hydrogen through electrolysis, which could then be stored and eventually converted back into electricity to supply the Denham community has the need arises.
The company hopes that hydrogen can play a role in managing the supply of renewable energy to the town and reducing the need for backup electricity to be generated from expensive and emissions-intensive diesel generators.
Horizon Power is currently seeking expressions of interest from potential suppliers of the hydrogen energy system, and if viable, intends to include the technology in the new Denham electricity system to be constructed in early 2021.
The Western Australian government will also provide financial backing to a series of seven hydrogen demonstration projects, as part of a $1.68 million funding round to support an additional seven projects under the Renewable Hydrogen Fund.
Projects receiving funding include demonstration projects for the use of hydrogen in transport infrastructure, including the use of renewable hydrogen to fuel waste collection services and a light vehicle fleet in Cockburn and a hydrogen refuelling hub in Mandurah.
“Western Australia needs to explore how we can produce, use and provide energy to our international partners through clean and reliable sources – renewable energy via hydrogen provides a means to do this,” Western Australian regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan said.
“This feasibility studies will facilitate significant private sector investment and leverage financial support for a job-creating renewable hydrogen industry in WA.”
“The projects being investigated have the potential to create new jobs, skills and training opportunities – particularly in regional Western Australia,” MacTiernan added.
Western Australia has emerged as a hot spot in the development of hydrogen projects, with the state’s government committing $10 million to kick-start a series of demonstration projects.
This has included funding for a $3.3 million clean energy hub being developed by ATCO south of Perth, which includes a 300kW solar system, a 250kW battery energy storage system, and a 150kW hydrogen electrolyser used to produce renewable hydrogen at the site.
The state has also attracted interest from large-scale project developers seeking to establish a hydrogen export industry in Western Australia, including a Siemen’s backed proposal that would see up to 5,000MW of solar and wind generation constructed to supply hydrogen production and export facilities at the Murchison House Station near Kalbarri.