Renewable hydrogen will be used for large-scale energy storage for the first time in New South Wales, after securing government support for the integration of Australian developed technology at a community solar farm.
With the support of a $3.5 million grant provided by the NSW government to the Manilla solar project under the Regional Community Energy Program, the project will be integrated with the UNSW developed H2Store energy storage system.
The H2Store technology has been developed by a team of researchers at the UNSW Sydney campus, led by Professor Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, and offers the production and storage of hydrogen that is scalable and portable.
“The H2Store technology is a compact and transportable hydrogen storage solution. It’s an effective way to store and generate renewable energy, mitigate the fluctuation of renewable generation and increase confidence in the security of supply,” Professor Aguey-Zinsou said.
The H2Store technology uses metal hydrides to store hydrogen gas, which allows for higher density and lower pressure storage of the renewable fuel, which can then be re-released as hydrogen gas when required.
It also allows hydrogen to be stored at smaller scale, and can achieve energy densities, the amount of energy stored per unit of space, that are greater than conventional lithium-ion batteries.
The hydrogen storage technology has previously attracted investment from Providence Asset Group, which had provided an initial investment of $3.5 million to explore the development of the hydrogen energy storage in a residential context.
“This state government grant is very welcome and a great endorsement for this project, and we thank them for seeing the enormous potential for regional economies, and the state’s energy requirements and demands into the future,” Providence Asset Group CEO Henry Sun said.
“The funding will greatly expand the potential of this project, assisting with the provision of cutting-edge ‘hydrogen’ technology to support the solar farm and its storage capacity.”
The hydrogen plant combined with a solar and battery storage facility will be the first of its kind in New South Wales, and according to NSW state energy minister Matt Kean, will help accelerate the state’s shift to cleaner energy sources.
“In a NSW first, a hydrogen energy storage system will be installed at Manilla alongside a solar-battery system to store renewable energy,” Kean said.
“Hydrogen has the potential to transform our economy and energy mix. World leading green hydrogen initiatives like the Manilla Community Solar project will play a critical role in developing this technology.”
“These innovative renewable energy projects will help to make electricity more reliable and affordable for our regional communities,” Kean added.
The community energy project will see 4.5MW of solar PV capacity combined with a 4.5MW/4.5MWh battery storage system and will be located near the town of Manilla, around 45km north-west of Tamworth.
The project has been led by a group of community members and has attracted the support of over 100 local residents, as well as the Tamworth Regional Council and the local branch of the CWA.
The hydrogen energy storage system will provide an additional 2MW/17MWh of energy storage using renewable hydrogen and will be stored across several 20-foot shipping containers co-located at the Manilla solar farm.
“This initiative will also provide the community with the means to store solar energy and sell it on the electricity market during peak demand when the sun doesn’t shine,” Professor Aguey-Zinsou added.
“I am very excited to see the technology we developed in the lab here at UNSW scaled up and used in real-world applications. It will prove the feasibility of hydrogen storage at scale and position Australia to become a major player in transitioning to renewable energy.”
The Manilla solar project is one of seven solar projects that have been awarded funding under the NSW government’s $20 million Regional Community Energy Program and has been funded through the state’s Climate Change Fund.
Construction at the Manilla solar project is expected to commence in the second half of 2020, with the storage component to be installed at the project during 2021.