The Australian Government continues to demonstrate its support for the nascent hydrogen sector with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) providing $2.6m in funding to Horizon Power for the country’s first renewable hydrogen microgrid.

The project in Denham, Western Australia, will be a first-of-its-kind demonstration that will utilise solar and renewable hydrogen generation and storage to provide 526 megawatt hours per annum of dispatchable renewable electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 100 residential homes.

It will consist of a 384 kilowatt (kW) hydrogen electrolyser with accompanying compression and storage and 100kW fuel cell, alongside 704kW of solar that will power the electrolyser.

Hydrogen produced by the electrolyser can be stored for use later in the fuel cell to deliver electricity when it is needed.

The plant will be connected to the Denham hybrid power station system.

Microgrids are expected to be increasingly cost-effective solutions for the delivery of low-cost, low-emissions energy to regional communities and industries that are either on the fringes or off the grid.

ARENA’s funding is in addition to $5.7m provided by the Western Australia state government under its Recovery Plan and a further $1m from the Western Australia Renewable Hydrogen Fund.

While the renewable hydrogen project is currently not commercially viable, it is aimed at testing the technical capability of hydrogen as a dispatchable power source in remote power systems to test and improve the competitiveness of the technology.

If the project is successful, Horizon Power will look to scale up the solution with increased hydrogen and solar penetration and replicate the technology in other remote power systems across its portfolio.

Construction of the plant will start in August 2021, with commissioning to commence in December.

Renewable hydrogen could replace diesel

ARENA chief executive Darren Miller says the demonstration would be a great test case for assessing the potential for renewable hydrogen to displace diesel for energy generation in remote communities across Australia.

“Remote and off-grid communities like Denham suffer from high energy costs due to costly diesel-based energy generation systems,” he explained.

“The potential for these communities to generate, store and use their own renewable energy could simultaneously reduce costs and reduce emissions without sacrificing the reliability of energy supply.

“With projects like this and our $70 million commercial scale funding round, ARENA is hoping to reduce the overall cost of producing renewable hydrogen, in line with the National Hydrogen Strategy.”

Miller added that while clean hydrogen could be a major export industry, it could be used in the near term for domestic purposes.

Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, reinforced this saying that prioritising hydrogen under the Technology Investment Roadmap and backing projects like Denham would demonstrate how renewable hydrogen can form part of Australia’s energy mix to drive down prices and reduce emissions.

Origin teams up with Japanese manufacturer

It is not just the Australian government that is betting on renewable hydrogen.

Energy provider Origin Energy (ASX:ORG) is working with Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries on a green liquid hydrogen export project in Townsville, Queensland.

A feasibility study for the initial 300 megawatt hydrogen export and domestic supply project has already been completed and the company is aiming to start front-end engineering and design in 2021.

It is also collaborating with Jemena on the Western Sydney Green Gas project that seeks to produce green hydrogen and demonstrate connection across gas and electricity gains.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Origin general manager of future fuels Felicity Underhill as saying that renewable hydrogen has tremendous potential to support decarbonisation in Australia and overseas.

“Origin has been exploring how hydrogen can best fit into Australia’s energy system and is progressing a number of opportunities,” Underhill said.