The Northern Territory government will trial off-grid green hydrogen technology that uses water extracted from the desert air, as part of its renewable hydrogen strategy.
The project will be located in the Tennant Creek region, 500 kilometres north of Alice Springs, and will use solar power and Aqua Aerem’s “water from air technology”.
The raw material for green hydrogen is water, which is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis powered by renewable energy. For regions with plenty of sunshine but limited water, this poses both an opportunity and a conundrum.
The Northern Territory government will attempt to overcome this by using the Aqua Aerem technology, which draws water directly out of the atmosphere.
“Water is a precious resource and a sustainable water source is critical to development of renewable hydrogen projects in the Territory,” the NT government said in a statement. “This technology provides an innovative solution for securing a sustainable water source for the production of renewable hydrogen in Tennant Creek.”
Aqua Aerom is a joint venture of two Australian companies, Axcentium and Ahurei, which developed the technology explicitly for the green hydrogen industry. It can also be used to provide water to dry, remote developments such as mines or communities affected by drought.
The initial trial will last 12 weeks and will “collect local production data for further optimisation of the water capture process”. The idea is that hydrogen produced there can eventually be used to power the Tennant Creek Power Station, a 20 megawatt generator that currently runs on gas with diesel back-up.
The Northern Territory hydrogen strategy, published in July last year, is an ambitious proposal to use the NT’s abundant renewable energy resources and existing gas infrastructure to create hydrogen hubs, with a view to exporting hydrogen overseas from Darwin’s LNG terminal.
NT minister for renewables and energy Eva Lawler would bring “the NT to the forefront of the developing renewable hydrogen industry with large areas of land with high solar irradiance, close proximity to export markets”.
“As renewable hydrogen technologies are continuously evolving, having innovative trials like this one in the Territory will be essential to ensure the Territory remains at the forefront of the renewable hydrogen industry,” she said.
Aqua Aerem co-founder Gerard Reiter said: “Aqua Aerem’s patented water capture technology demonstrated today when combined with electrolysers has the potential to allow the Northern Territory to realise it’s 2050 carbon emission targets through the use of green hydrogen, whilst creating a future lucrative export market in renewable energy.”
Other renewable energy projects supported by the NT government include a 35MW big battery in Darwin, and the headline-grabbing Sun Cable project, which will run a high-voltage undersea cable from Darwin to Singapore to carry electricity generated by a 14GW solar farm near Elliot in the NT, with 33 gigawatt hours of battery storage. It aims to supply 20 per cent of Singapore’s electricity needs.
James Fernyhough is a reporter at RenewEconomy. He has worked at The Australian Financial Review and the Financial Times, and is interested in all things related to climate change and the transition to a low-carbon economy.