Solar and battery “hydrogen hub” planned for W.A. micro-grid

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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.


  • RobertO

    Hi All, You can not do Hydrogen, there is no efficiency in the system, or I know Hydrogen, it too dangerous, or too explosive, all good reasons to bury you head in the sand.
    Next thing you know they will start experimenting with Fuel Cells. Where in the world are we going with such inefficiencies allowed. Remember the Hindenburg, it killed how many people (note to self, need more sand)

    Like it or not Hydrogen is and will be part of our future (if we survive our coal fetish).
    When people talk about how much RE we need there is often thoughts that we can not make too much electricity because it get curtailed, but the Hydrogen cycle can use that curtailed energy very effectively, and our Natural Gas pipelines make very efficient collection points and transmission pathways up to 10% without any issues.

    • GlennM

      As a Chemist I can tell you that Hydrogen is not particularly explosive…say unlike Coal powder or gasoline. As an Aviator it has been proven that the Hindenburg disaster was not because of Hydrogen but because of the flammable outer covering that caught fire due to static electricity and sustained the Hydrogen burning. Two thirds of the people on the Hindenburg survived.

      • Catprog

        And I am not sure of the figures but nearly all the people who died jumped rather then wait.

      • RobertO

        Hi GlennM Tongue in cheek for all the antiHydrogen naysayers.

      • solarguy

        Correct Glenn!

    • Alastair Leith

      That’s the problem, 10% hydrogen means 90% fossil gas, i.e. methane which is 86x as potent as CO2 using GWP20 and 105x including its role as a precursor to tropospheric ozone. Methane is intentionally released at well head, on transmission lines, when chilled and compressed for LNG, it’s also vented out of negligence due to cheapest equipment always being used for fracking operations (get in, get out cowboy operators the norm).

      Definitely a role for hydrogen but propping up an industry that is more GHG emitting than coal industry in many places is not a role that makes sense. Convert the hydrogen to ammonia and store it as either H2 or ammonia but don’t mix it with fossil methane and leak it everywhere. In one city, Chicago, they determined after a trial that zero molecules of H2 got to end user appliances thanks to leaks in the distribution grid.

      • RobertO

        Hi Alastair Leith Note to self I need more sand

        So in early 1905 somebody said
        “So the Wright Brothers flew again today, so what this stupid idea all about. Nobody is going to sit in an open drafty contraption to travel a couple of miles!” The rest is history so they say!

        What if ARENA was at the site where that statement was made in 1905 and ARENA said let us fund this idea! Would we have progress faster (and made it safer) sooner that mankind did?

        White washing of FF has started and will never stop until we ban FF completely. I am hoping we in Australia stop coal mining within 10 years, and all other forms of FF within 20 years (Fed Gov could easily support this but our current COALition Gov want it to continue for 50 to 100 years

        So we have (in 2038) banned FF. A factory in Whopi Whopi make CH4 using only RE. CH4 is still a dangerous GHG if it leaks. H2 if we use incorrect piping leaks also! But in the early 1990 we started on replacing lots of pipework with leak proof systems. By 2038 we will have replaced all (or nearly all) of that pipework, so we will be able to safely use it to transport gas.

        Please note

        I am a supporter of RE
        I am a supporter of ARENA and CEFC (and the great work they do)
        I am a supporter of the idea that both H2 and CH4 (not FF stuff) will be part of our future
        I am a supporter of the idea that FC will be part of our future (mainly heavy transport and heavy tractors (and some manufactures will produce FC cars so we may see a few of those in Australia).

        • Alastair Leith

          So you’re telling me you trust the oil and gas industry to transition from fossil gas to H2 ASAP. And the economics of that is going to be cheaper… fine. I think somebody has a bridge to sell you RobertO! Gas is a really poor energy transport system compared to electrical transmission, not least because of the massive energy inefficiencies of the end use appliances for heating/cooling/lighting from methane.

          • RobertO

            Hi Alastair Leith I am certainly tell you that I implisit trust FF industries guarantee 100% NOT. They are already green washing the idea of H2 in their pipes. I am comfortable with the idea that we can check and confirm what they are actually doing.
            As for the idea that gas is a really poor transport system yes it is unless you are a curtailed RE generator with poor other options in which case it may be the best system available, where anything is better than nothing.

          • Alastair Leith

            Can agree with that 🙂

  • Eb

    Is a pity the size of the electrolyser isn’t specified. Producing 4,000 kg of hydrogen pa would require at least 600 kWh per average day (55 kWh/kg, before compression) or about 40% of the average, daily PV output, so within the realms of possibility. Though I bet the proposal said ‘up to’ 4 tonnes pa. The 850 hypothetical vehicles being ‘fuelled’ only get ~4.7 kg of hydrogen each which gives about 470km of driving, so the term ‘enough to fuel 850 vehicles’ isn’t a per year figure and is just a one-off fill up. Still I look forward to seeing the knowledge sharing from this project, particularly the detailed economic analysis which shouldn’t be commercial in-confidence seeing ARENA’s generous contribution.

    • Chris Drongers

      Yes, you took my comment! The economic analysis and balancing of building optimal solar+wind+waves and using it to retire existing (and severely life limited) existing coal generators, feed in to 80% round trip efficient batteries or pumped hydro,or to generate hydrogen and use that to supplement low efficiency thermal generators or even lower value process heat, or to feed it into power cell driven vehicles after building a new fuel distribution system de novo is a worthy professional Master’s thesis, certainly welk above an Honours (prize to me for longest sentence)

    • juxx0r

      fortunately those hydrogen vehicle will never exist, unless the government opens up some gayimport scheme for ex japan olympics vehicles.

  • Ah hydrogen; the last gasp of the fossil fuel infrastructure. At least they are pumping it directly into the gas lines rather than trying to do much else with it. Sure – go nuts. But I have a feeling it will go the way of the facsimile. It might work, but when there’s better options available, why would you?

    • RobertO

      Hi Chris Jones, I hope your wrong, why waste all that infrastructure that has been built. Mankind has the knowledge to make CH4, RE provides the energy to make CH4 (and curtailed RE is wasted energy). We will use some FC extracting H2 from the gas network to supply emergency generators in some buildings.
      Our RE network will have some where in the order of 3 to 5 times the amount of name plate requirements (after CF are accounted for). The priority will be use it first, (including some H2 for transport) then store it (in PHES/Batteries or heat), and any excess after that will head for the natural gas pipes as H2 or made into CH4. We may even export H2 and using the natural gas pipeline to transport it across country (we have the ability to extract H2 without extracting the CH4).
      Lots of these decisions on what we (mankind) will be based on someone’s ability to make a profit somehow somewhere in the system. It will never be just on the efficiency of some system that lots of naysayers sprout.

      • juxx0r

        The reason why we waste all the infrastructure is so that we dont waste 70% of the energy that we would waste if we converted it to hydrogen.

        • RobertO

          Hi juxx0r, Mankind is really efficent at making things that are based on efficiencies.
          ICE is one of the best at about 7%

      • Alastair Leith

        “waste all that infrastructure that has been built.” what like the horse trough infrastructure outside Victorian era hotels got wasted?

        Hydrogen has a role, but mixing it into fossil gas network is a big marketing direction the Gas supply industry have cooked up, I read the report when it was released and they spent up big on glossy graphics and precious little good science.

        Nothing but greenwashing as long as methane is escaping from extraction operations into our atmosphere, CH4 is 105x as potent a GHG over 20 years as CO2 (including its role as a precursor to tropospheric ozone, 86x ignoring that IPCC AR5, Ch 8 Shindell et al). Surprised ARENA investing in this but it helps grow the knowledge around hydrogen I guess which can only be a good thing. We need to know what it’s good at and what it isn’t good at. Heat pumps, induction stove tops and evacuated solar tubes kick it’s arse on domestic heat requirements.

        • RobertO

          Hi Alastair Leith, so CH4 is a Fossil Fuel (FF) get you to the top of the class. (Yes if you drill holes or mine it in any way and we need to do better than we have done with smoking cigarettes ie total ban on cigarettes and total ban on FF (100%)
          Mankind has the ability to make CH4 (Hint it is a chemical process)

          So I own a wind farm out at whopi whopi. AEMO tell me that I am going to be curtailed (no longer able to sell my RE from 9 am to 3 pm and I just happen to be on top the natural gas line as it passes through my property). I know that there are some new solar farms being built near ship creak and that they will also face curtailment and they have the ability to add storage to their systems but, they will face curtailment also.

          What is to stop me making CH4 with my energy and buying some of the solar energy to make more CH4. So long as I am making a profit (all 100% green energy) I do not care about the efficiency of the process.

          If mankind is stupid and we keep FF going then long term it will kill us. If mankind decides to stop FF (100%) and we have only RE as our supplies of energy then we may also decide to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and recycle it to our benefit (chemical process) moving excess energy around using existing infrastructure that over time we have made leak proof (plastic lined steel pipe) for both H2 and CH4

          • Alastair Leith

            Robert your comment about plastic lined steel pipes (or tough plastic pipes as they now lay for the distribution networks) kind of makes my point for me. It’s not existing infrastructure you are talking about now, it new infrastructure for an inefficient energy transfer/transport method. That’s a ‘shifting the goal posts’ type of comment in the context of what I said.

            I agree that wind and solar farms are already looking forward to and investing in storage to firm their product using free or very low cost onsite or nearby energy. Whether that turns out to be power2gas2storage2dispatch remains to be seen. FWIW I prefer the idea of that to trashing our native forests to harvest biomass to co-fire in coal plants, which is already happening as we speak.

          • RobertO

            Hi Alister Leith They started about 20 years ago with the new pipes and they are currently about half way through.

            Try to find Bio Gas (CH4) and not the Chemical CH4

          • Alastair Leith

            Bio gas comes from plants. Killing plants stop them doing their job at sequestering CO2, in the case of forests, it stops them dead and they never recover the lost time or sequestration potential (or lost biodiversity).

  • Pedro

    How much hydrogen can be blended in with Natural gas? And at what concentration does it affect my gas stove and gas hot water?

    • RobertO

      Hi Pedro, it already occurs naturally so when they drill for it it will contain some hydrogen. Adding man made Hydrogen to to the natural gas pipeline is no problem up to 10%. Note there is about 14000 Km of pipeline in the diagram. It will not effect either gas stove or gas hot water, it burns happily.

      • Pedro

        Thanks RobertO for the information

    • MacNordic

      Most network operators in Europe have a limit of 4 or 5% H².
      Technical studies in Austria and Germany have shown no general problem with 10% hydrogen content for most of the networks (built to EN/DIN/ÖNORM standards). This includes customer appliances.
      More detailed analysis:
      – underground (salt) caverns: no problem;
      – steel CNG tanks:
      – tensile strenght of the used steel above 950MPa: can take up to 2% of
      hydrogen content,
      – tensile strenght of the steel used below 950MPa: can take up to 100%;
      – CNG engines: currently built to take 2%, need a change of sensors
      – CNG turbines: most built to take up to 1%, but there are turbines capable of utilising 50% H²
      – Pipelines: depending on the steel type and its properties. There have been dedicated hydrogen pipelines in use in Germany with a lenght of >280km for decades – the first were installed in 1938. Worldwide, the hydrogen pipelines measure above 1200km.

      [source (German):

      • RobertO

        Hi MacNordic, I have never understood the term “Hydrogen Economy”

        Lots of people take it to mean that the efficiency of H2 (it is very poor) but what they have forgotten is that our system is based on profit. If I can make a profit on making and selling H2 then the efficiency is of no interest to me (it could be as low as 0.05% efficient). The only thing that matters to me is “I am making a profit” (somehow)!

        If the likes of Japan whom appear to have decided to use H2 as a form of energy and we as Australians can make a profit selling it to them then our economy will grow (and I hope we are not stupid and sell it at a loss).

        • MacNordic

          Think the term “hydrogen economy” refers to an economic system (country), based on and around hydrogen as the main source of energy.

          For export, use of hydrogen for high heat loads above 120°C, as a source chemical in industrial processes or similar, I am perfectly fine with hydrogen.

          But in a country so blessed with natural ressources as Australia, it would seem to make little sense in using it domestically, as seems to be the case here.
          Far better (=cheaper) storage/ backup options available for 99% of the electricity required:

          Like pumped hydro, demand response, batteries, multiple generating sources such as PV, wind and PH and so on.

          Maybe even biogas as a reserve fuel for gas engines as a replacement for the diesel generators currently used.

          Or locally sourced biomass as a last resort fuel, stored and used only in emergencies after all other options have been exhausted.

      • Pedro

        Thanks for the information

        • MacNordic

          A pleasure!

  • solarguy

    Producing H2 is all good, but what about the elephant in the corner of the room, human waste and the methane problem………….. gota do something about that monster. It ain’t going to go away.

    • RobertO

      Hi solarguy, here is a little site in the geographic centre of Sydney using mainly food, it’s about 2 MW system that also make fertilizer out of part of the waste stream

      As for human waste stream it some 100 grams solids and 160 kg of H2O per person, and yes Sydney Water Corporation is slowly progressing their treatment plants. In April 2017 they started secondary treatment at one of their stations (LA in the USA started in 1955 with all sewage in primary and in 1997 all secondary treatment so we as in Sydney are just a little slow)