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Study ‘crunching’ hydrogen outlook

An analysis by university engineers has provided further insight into the potential of regional areas including the Wimmera-Mallee, in the development of a green-hydrogen fuel industry.

University of NSW engineers, in ‘crunching the numbers’ on green-hydrogen production costs, have found Australia in a prime position to take advantage of developments.

In a paper published in Cell Reports Physical Science, research authors showed how different factors affected the cost of producing green hydrogen by electrolysis using a dedicated solar system without using additional power from the electricity grid.

Without using grid electricity, predominantly generated by fossil fuel, the system produces hydrogen with nearly zero emissions.



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Being free of the grid also means such systems could operate in remote locations with extensive, year-long exposure to sunlight.

Wimmera and southern Mallee leaders announced in January they were keen to explore zero-emission hydrogen generation based on wind and solar power in the region. 

Green hydrogen is created by electrolysis of water via electricity created from an environmentally benign source such as a wind or solar generator. 

The Federal Government has established a $300-million Advancing Hydrogen Fund to finance projects focused on growing a ‘clean, innovative and competitive’ hydrogen industry in Australia.

The UNSW engineering research examined a range of parameters that could affect the final price of green-hydrogen energy, including the cost of electrolyser and solar photovoltaic systems, electrolyser efficiency, available sunlight and the size of the installations. Using thousands of different calculations, the researchers found the cost of green hydrogen ranged from $4.04 to $6.53. 

They said it was possible to get a lower cost with proposed scenarios approaching $3.50, at which point green hydrogen becomes competitive with fossil-fuel production.

Undergraduate Jonathon Yates built a system and cost-simulation model using weather data.

“We then saw how this would change the economics in different locations around the world where solar-powered electrolysis is being considered,” he said.

“We knew each location that would install such a system would be different – requiring different sizes and having to wear different costs of components. Combining these with weather variations means that some locations will have lower cost potential than others, which can indicate an export opportunity.”

Mr Yates pointed to Japan as an example of somewhere that did not have a great solar resource and system size might be limited.

“So there is potentially a significant cost difference when compared with the spacious regions of Australia,” he said.

Mr Yates said it was only a matter of time before green hydrogen became more economical than hydrogen produced from fossil fuel.

Wimmera Development Association executive director Chris Sounness said in May the Wimmera, a central hub where heavy vehicles criss-crossed via a variety of transport routes, was perfectly placed for development. 

“The key for us, in collaboration with the State Government, is to pinpoint opportunities so we can paint a clear picture of these opportunities to take to the Federal Government,” he said.

The entire October 7, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!