The Federal Government has awarded Brisbane-based Volt Advisory Group $18.75 million over three years to develop an innovative renewable energy microgrid complete with a solar PV farm, battery energy storage and hydrogen electrolyser, in the World Heritage-protected Daintree Rainforest.
The renewable energy microgrid will incorporate an 8MW solar farm, 20MWh of battery storage and a 1MW green hydrogen plant. Construction of the project is due to commence this year and the microgrid is expected to begin operations by 2024.
“This is a major win for communities in the Daintree Rainforest, which will see reduced pollution and noise from diesel generators and will be a valuable demonstration of solar-to-hydrogen technology,” Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said on Monday.
“The renewable and hydrogen microgrid will use cutting-edge technology to reduce emissions and drive down costs by ending the community’s reliance on costly diesel generation.”
The microgrid, which has been the subject of a feasibility study, will store energy generated by the new solar farm and existing rooftop solar arrays by converting it to hydrogen.
The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources described the project as the first of its kind anywhere in the world but Western Australian utility Horizon Power has been developing a microgrid that utilises solar and renewable hydrogen generation and storage at Denham, in the state’s northwest. The Daintree microgrid is expected to power about 700 homes.
“As a 100% renewable microgrid, the generation station will comprise a solar farm, battery storage, containerised electrical switchgear and a containerised hydrogen electrolyser and fuel cell,” the department said.
“The combination of solar generation and battery and hydrogen storage will ensure that sufficient energy is captured and stored to get the community through periods of low solar production like in the wet season.”
Assistant Energy Minister Tim Wilson said the microgrid will allow the Daintree community to cease its reliance on millions of litres of diesel fuel annually.
“Once completed, the microgrid will displace more than 4 million litres of diesel fuel consumed in the Daintree each year,” he said.
“It also presents a significant opportunity to develop key learnings that can be applied as we pursue further microgrid options across Australia.”
Local MP Warren Entsch said the project, which is to be constructed along roadways and on previously cleared land to avoid disturbing the ecosystem, is a game-changer for the Daintree community.
“Microgrid technology is becoming increasingly cost-effective, creating the opportunity for reliable, low-cost, off-grid power in communities like the Daintree,” he said.
“But more importantly, from an environmental aspect, it will remove the need to burn dirty and inefficient diesel in the Daintree, allowing residents to have access to a cleaner, more affordable, more reliable source of energy.”
The grant is being delivered under the Daintree Microgrid Program, following the feasibility study which was completed under the $50 million Regional and Remote Communities Reliability Fund.
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