Massive 5,000MW solar and wind projects set to fuel WA’s hydrogen expansion

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Siemens-backed project targets up to 5,000MW of large scale wind and solar near Kalbarri to fuel hydrogen production for export market.

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A massive new renewable hydrogen production facility has been unveiled for Western Australia, with plans for up to 5,000MW of combined solar and wind projects to supply the production of low-cost hydrogen at the Murchison House Station near Kalbarri.

The project proposed by Hydrogen Renewables Australia is the second massive renewables project in W.A, following the 15,000MW wind and solar facility proposed for the Pilbara by the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, also aiming at the domestic and export market. This new project is located at the edge of the state’s main grid.

The two projects could position W.A. has a leading producer in a burgeoning global market for renewable fuels, led by investments by Japan and South Korea in new hydrogen fuel technologies, providing Australia with an opportunity to tap into abundant resources of wind and solar energy to establish a new export economy.

Renewable hydrogen is being touted as an ideal replacement fuel for fossil fuels including gas and liquid-fuels, as it is storable, useable as a heating and transport fuel and capable of being produced using renewable electricity by electrolysis.

ARENA CEO Darren Miller, in an interview with RenewEconomy’s Energy Insiders podcast, says that Australia could one day support up to 700GW (700,000MW) of large scale wind and solar if the renewable hydrogen industry replaces the current LNG market in a de-carbonised economy.

The development of 5,000MW of co-located wind and solar generation capacity would not only represent both a massive expansion of Australia’s renewable energy generation capacity, it would also represent a dramatic increase in Australia’s ability to produce renewable fuels for an international export market.

The strategic co-location of variable renewable sources like wind and solar farms, can minimise the amount of infrastructure investment necessary to support the production of electricity, particularly if the different energy resources are available at different times.

In many parts of Western Australia, good solar energy availability exists during the day, while strong wind resources are accessible during the night.

In a major step forward for the project, the company has secured a Heritage Agreement with the Nanda Aboriginal Corporation, which will allow the company to commence resource monitoring activities at the proposed site.

The company has now commenced negotiations with traditional the local Nanda Aboriginal Corporation and is hoping to sign an Indigenous Land Use Agreement during 2020.

The Murchison House Station site is located near the coastal town of Kalbarri has been flagged due to the combination of excellent wind and solar resources, and was identified as a high potential location in a study completed by AECOM into the co-location of wind and solar projects in Australia.

“We believe that Murchison Renewable Hydrogen Project’s location is the best in Australia for combined solar and wind, making it one of the most cost-effective spots to produce clean energy,” executive chairman of Hydrogen Renewables Australia Terry Kallis said.

“We also believe that the project will contribute significantly to the national, state and local objectives for new investment, new jobs, renewable energy sources and new export markets.”

Hydrogen Renewables Australia has developed plans for the Murchison Renewable Hydrogen Project that will be undertaken in three core phases, which include a demonstration phase for the production of transport fuels, producing hydrogen fuels for natural gas blending in the WA gas grid, followed by the large-scale expansion of production for export.

The project has received the backing of major global equipment provider Siemens, who is the intended technology partner for the project.

Siemens has sought to position itself as a leading supplier of renewable hydrogen production technologies and has already supplied several demonstration projects underway across Australia.

Head of strategy at Siemens, Martin Hablutzel, told the Clean Energy Summit in July that starting with supplying the domestic gas market, before moving to the export market, was the ideal pathway for achieving a viable market for renewable hydrogen.

Following today’s announcement, Siemens Australia Pacific CEO Jeff Connolly again echoed the immense potential for Australia to emerge as a leader in renewable hydrogen.

“Australia has potential like no other country in the world for hydrogen production and export – as long as we act upon the opportunity quickly,” Connolly said.

“It’s heartening to see strong recent bipartisan leadership at both federal and state levels for hydrogen,” Connolly added.

“There is a clear appetite for hydrogen around the world due to the energy transition away from fossil fuels and the need to decarbonise industry, transport systems and more. Not only Asia, but also Europe and other parts of the world are eyeing Australia as potential giant in hydrogen.”

“The Murchison Green Hydrogen project has great potential due to the enviable wind and solar conditions. Our modern electrolyser technology is very suited to the flexible nature of renewables and Western Australia is well positioned to be part of the local and global needs for hydrogen.”

Hydrogen Renewables Australia is currently in negotiations with the Western Australian and Federal Governments, as well as local councils about potential support for the project.

The Western Australian government has been a keen supporter of an emerging renewable hydrogen industry in the state, providing funding for demonstration projects and the development of a hydrogen strategy for the state. This has included a renewable hydrogen storage and mains gas blending demonstration project being undertaken by ATCO south of Perth.

Hydrogen Renewables Australia CEO Terry Kallis has shown no hesitation towards taking on big projects, also serving as the executive chairman of the 2,200MW ‘Star of the South’ offshore wind farm being proposed off the coast of Victoria.

Japan hopes to use the 2020 Olympics as a key demonstration of the hydrogen technologies being developed within the country, including a fleet of hydrogen buses being developed by Toyota.

While hydrogen vehicles have many potential features that would make them comparable replacement to current petrol-fuelled vehicles, including the ability to be rapidly re-fuelled at conventional fuel stations, a lack of such hydrogen refuelling infrastructure and higher prices has meant uptake of hydrogen vehicles has lagged that of electric vehicles.

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