Australian-first green hydrogen microgrid powers up in WA


Western Australia (WA) government-owned utility Horizon Power has commissioned a demonstration plant that will utilise solar and green hydrogen generation and storage to provide 526 MWh of dispatchable renewable electricity per annum to help power the small tourist town of Denham, 820 kilometres north of Perth.

The $9.3 million (USD 6.2 million) Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant will test the technological and commercial viability of green hydrogen as a baseload power source.

The  integrated system includes a 704 kW solar farm, a 348 kW hydrogen electrolyser with accompanying hydrogen compression and storage system, and a 100 kW fuel cell which can be used to deliver electricity when it is needed.

Designed and built by Hybrid Systems Australia in partnership with fellow Pacific Energy subsidiary ENGV, the plant is connected to the Denham hybrid power station system which has been powered by a combination of diesel and wind.

The Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant, launched on Friday, has already produced enough hydrogen to fill the 13,230-litre storage system.

The plant is expected to produce enough renewable energy to power 20% of Denham’s residences and businesses.

Image: Development WA

The next stage of the project is to test the integration of the green hydrogen plant with the solar farm, battery and the conventional diesel power station to make sure these parts operate together as expected.

“The demonstration in Denham is extending knowledge of hydrogen technology and systems in practice and considers how this technology can be used in other remote power systems,” WA Energy Minister Bill Johnston said. “The plant will show how renewable hydrogen can be used to replace diesel and other fossil fuels to propel WA to net zero emissions by 2050.”

Once fully operational, planned for early next year, the Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant is expected to produce enough renewable energy to power the average demands of 100 households or 20% of Denham’s residences and businesses.

It will also offset 140,000 litres of diesel annually and provide a decarbonisation pathway for future energy systems in regional WA, and throughout the rest of the country.

Horizon Power chief executive officer Stephanie Unwin said the hybrid solar and hydrogen power system will test the technical capability of hydrogen as a dispatchable power source in remote microgrids, in anticipation of the technology becoming cost competitive in the future.

“It is very exciting to be officially opening a project that is leading the country in the demonstration of hydrogen as a base-load fuel source,” she said, before adding that the demonstration project could provide valuable learnings toward the commercialisation of renewable hydrogen power generation.

Hydrogen Industry Minister Alannah MacTiernan at the launch of the Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant.

Image: Supplied

In addition to providing valuable learnings for future applications of renewable hydrogen across the power generation sector, the system aims to demonstrate the efficiency of the hydrogen equipment such as the electrolyser and fuel cell, the ramp rate of hydrogen in response to a decline in solar generation, and the efficiency and storage capability of hydrogen fuel cells versus batteries.

The project is backed by both the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the WA state government which provided $5.7 million of funding for the project, with $1 million through its Renewable Hydrogen Fund.

WA’s Hydrogen Industry Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the project demonstrates the state government’s determination to ensure WA reaches its potential as a renewable hydrogen powerhouse.

“Once fully operational the plant will show how renewable hydrogen can be used to replace diesel and other fossil fuels to propel WA to net zero emissions by 2050,” she said. “This project is the first step towards rolling out renewable hydrogen domestically and has helped us build critical skills and understanding to move us along as a producer and user of renewable hydrogen.”

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