The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced funding for a $3.3 million “green hydrogen” innovation hub in Western Australia, adding to the growing list of renewable hydrogen projects across the country.
The latest announcement from ARENA is for $1.5 million in funding for a $3.3 million project to trial the production, storage and use of renewable hydrogen to energise a commercial-scale microgrid.
It will also assess the practicalities of replacing natural gas with hydrogen at a city-wide scale across a municipality.
The “green hydrogen” in this instance will be produced from 300kW of on-site solar, and 400kWh of batteries that will time shift electricity and power an electrolyser, which in turn will fuel a range of gas appliances and will blend hydrogen into the natural gas pipeline.
ARENA says the project will also build upon a distributed energy hybrid energy system trial called “GasSola” which includes the installation of rooftop solar with battery storage and standby natural gas generation for nine residential sites in Western Australia’s south west.
The project is just the latest in a series that look to use hydrogen – produced by wind or solar – for generation, a substitute for gas, or short and long term storage.
In South Australia, projects include a facility in Port Lincoln, a trial in central Adelaide, and a major project led by Neoen combining large scale wind and solar at Crystal Brook in the state’s mid-north. And there are big plans for the export of hydrogen too, including from the giant Pilbara renewable energy hub.
The development of hydrogen is being embraced by gas network owners, who fear holding stranded assets if the price of gas continues to rise, or the commodity is sidelined by the development of cheaper wind and solar and the emergence of battery storage.
Sure enough, this project is being managed by Canadian-owned gas network operator ATCO.
“Green hydrogen offers opportunities to provide carbon free energy to cities and towns, while leveraging existing natural gas infrastructure,” ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said in a statement.
“Along with ARENA’s R&D funding round focussed on exporting hydrogen, this project will explore the opportunities for hydrogen in Australia, which could also include the development of standards for green hydrogen production, distribution and use.
ATCO says it believes the gas network will “play a key role” in the future energy mix.
“The project has many exciting elements, but what truly sets it apart is the use of excess renewable energy, which would typically be lost to the system, to produce hydrogen,” managing director and COO Pat Creaghan said in a statement.