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Horizon Power is building Australia’s first renewable hydrogen demonstration plant in a regional power system in the regional Western Australian town of Denham, with operation scheduled for early 2022.

Hydrogen is tipped to be a game-changer in the rapidly transforming global energy sector. With the right strategy and investment, industry experts believe it could be Australia’s next big energy export.

Predictions are that hydrogen equipment costs will decline by up to 70 percent by 2030, driven by larger market volumes and use of the equipment across several applications, meaning hydrogen fuel cell generators may become viable alternatives to both diesel generators and batteries.

The CSIRO’s HyResource report of  May 2021 reflects more than 60 pilot projects at various stages of development across Australia. Regional hubs are emerging where there are existing ports, access to electricity networks and renewable energy sources, as well as the available technologies.

As the only vertically integrated energy utility in Australia, government trading entity Horizon Power operates across the full energy supply chain, providing generation, distribution, transmission and retail services. Spanning 2.3 million km2, it is responsible for the largest geographical catchment of any Australian energy provider.

Horizon Power manages a total of 38 systems across regional and remote Western Australia, including 34 regional power systems tailored to meet the needs of some of the most isolated remote communities in the world.

To address the challenges associated with this diverse servicing area, Horizon Power is making significant investments in its renewable energy capability, incorporating rooftop and large-scale solar, household and large-scale batteries and distributed energy resource orchestration and expertise.

It is also leading technical trials and pilot programs, exploring innovative ways of providing more sustainable power to regional and remote communities. Many of the towns serviced by Horizon Power are in areas where conditions for renewable generation are favourable and excess renewable energy can potentially be used for hydrogen production.

One such town is Denham, close to 1,400km from Perth in Western Australia, which is about to become home to a green hydrogen demonstration plant. Power to Denham’s 750 residents is currently provided through a combined wind generation and diesel system, with wind supplying around 30 percent of demand. Both components are nearing the end of their operational life.

The requirement for a power system upgrade, combined with favourable weather conditions, land availability, water infrastructure capacity and community sentiment, make the location of Denham the ideal candidate for a pilot of this nature.

The project will be a first-of-its-kind demonstration which 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.

“The aim is to trial the technology from both a technical and commercial perspective to understand whether green hydrogen can be used as a base load within our power systems,” Horizon Power Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Unwin said.

“This technology has the potential to be an environmental game changer for many remote towns in Western Australia and other similar locations around Australia, and allow greater uptake of reliable cleaner, greener renewable energy sources in the future.”

The Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant

The Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant will be an end-to-end demonstration incorporating green hydrogen into a microgrid with solar, battery, wind and diesel.

The plant is expected to generate up to 526MWh of renewable electricity per year, the equivalent energy used to power up to 100 homes in the town of Denham. The project will deliver a 704kW solar farm, 348kW electrolyser, hydrogen compression and storage, and a 100kW fuel cell.

Energy from the dedicated solar farm will be used to power the electrolyser to produce hydrogen, which will be compressed and stored on site in a pressurised system for later use in the fuel cell to deliver electricity.

“This is a ground-breaking trial which will build on the business’s expertise, taking the integration of renewables to the next level by creating green hydrogen to use as an electricity supply,” Ms Unwin said. Pacific Energy and two of its subsidiaries, Hybrid Systems Australia and Contract Power Australia, are delivering key aspects of this project alongside Horizon Power.

Horizon Power has awarded the contract to build Australia’s first renewable hydrogen demonstration plant in a regional power system to Western Australian-based Hybrid Systems Australia, the integrated renewables division of Pacific Energy Ltd. The existing aged power station assets will be upgraded rather than replaced with a new build to complement and support the integration of the renewable hydrogen demonstration plant.

Contract Power Australia has been awarded the contract to upgrade the assets, as well as supply and install an additional new 640kW solar farm and battery. The hydrogen plant equipment will be located at the existing power station site and the new solar farms will be located adjacent to the wind farm. Construction will start in October 2021, with the plant scheduled to be fully commissioned and operational by early 2022.

The project has been supported by both state and federal governments. It has received $2.6 million funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program.

A further $5.7 million has also been provided by the Western Australian Government as part of its WA Recovery Plan, this includes $1 million from the WA Renewable Hydrogen Fund.

A game changer for remote towns

Hydrogen is a clean source of energy and there is no doubt the development of hydrogen energy systems has become the focus of global research efforts. Traditionally, remote communities are powered by diesel-generated microgrids.

This plant is designed to demonstrate how hydrogen can reliably produce dispatchable power for our towns that are currently dependent on diesel fuel power systems. It will allow us to transition our network away from higher emission generating sources and meet our target of no new diesel generation systems from 2025,” Ms Unwin said.

L-R: Horizon Power’s Renato Pascucci, Shire of Shark Bay’s Paul Anderson, Hon Kyle McGinn MLC – Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Disability Services, Fisheries, Innovation and ICT; Seniors and Ageing, Hon. Alannah MacTiernan MLC, Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food; Hydrogen Industry; Horizon Power’s Stephanie Unwin and Hybrid Systems’ Mike Hall, on site in Denham in May as works commence on the hydrogen demonstration plant

“This is a world-leading trial which aims to demonstrate a future energy solution which encourages greater uptake of greener energy sources.

“We acknowledge there are multiple challenges facing operators when they set out to deliver projects like this, from gaining the required approvals to sourcing sites and capital raising.

“By creating opportunities to work with industry to trial emerging technologies such as hydrogen, we are helping to solve real-world challenges while also contributing to the broadening of industry’s knowledge and expertise.”

Infographic depicting Horizon Power’s Hydrogen Demonstration Plant in Denham

The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Australian Government or the Government of Western Australia nor do the Australian Government or the Government of Western Australia expressly or impliedly endorse any views or information contained herein, and the Australian Government and the Government of Western Australia do not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.

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