The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will provide $2.6 million in funding for Horizon Power to build Australia’s first remote microgrid using renewable hydrogen generation in remote Western Australia.

The project will be a first-of-its-kind demonstration that will utilise solar and renewable hydrogen generation and storage to provide 526MWh per annum of dispatchable renewable electricity, enough to power 100 residential homes. 

Horizon Power, owned by the Western Australian Government, will build the hybrid solar and hydrogen power system. 

Denham was chosen as the location for the microgrid due to the close proximity to quality wind and solar resources, availability of land, access to water and the need to find a solution to replace the current ageing diesel power station. 

Remote area power systems or microgrids are increasingly becoming cost-effective solutions to deliver reliable, low cost, low-emissions energy supply to our regional communities and industries in off-grid and fringe-of-grid locations.

The Horizon Power project is important as it will test the technical capability of using hydrogen as a power source in remote microgrids and help this technology to become commercially viable.

Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, said the Federal Government is supporting projects in Western Australia that will deliver a more reliable, affordable energy system for Western Australians and create new jobs. 

“This landmark Denham hydrogen project will see regional Western Australia at the cutting edge of hydrogen application,” Mr Taylor said. 

“The outcomes of this project will not only help to advance hydrogen developments across Australia, but will help keep the lights on for a remote community.

“Prioritising hydrogen under the Technology Investment Roadmap and backing projects like this will teach us more about how hydrogen can form part of Australia’s energy mix to drive down prices and reduce emissions.

“Importantly, this funding will provide reliable and affordable energy solutions to remote and indigenous communities, supporting economic development, local jobs and reducing disadvantage for households.” 

Western Australian Energy Minister, Bill Johnston, said the State Government is leading the nation in the trialling of new renewable technologies.

“The Denham project will keep Horizon Power at the leading edge of new technologies as we work towards the McGowan Government’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050,” Mr Johnston said.

“The plant will extend Australia’s knowledge of hydrogen operating systems, and test the possibility of implementing microgrids and hydrogen technology into other regional power systems across the state.” 

The Western Australian Government has previously announced a $5.7 million contribution, as part of the WA Recovery Plan. 

The CSIRO’s National Hydrogen Roadmap has highlighted remote area power systems as an early end use for hydrogen due to the high cost alternative of conventional energy sources in remote areas.

ARENA CEO, Darren Miller, said Horizon Power’s 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,” Mr Miller said.

“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.

“Clean hydrogen could be a major export industry in the future, but in the near term we can utilise renewable hydrogen for domestic purposes and we’re excited to see how Horizon Power’s first-of-a-kind project could transform remote area power systems into state of the art renewable energy hubs.”

Horizon Power Chief Executive Officer, Stephanie Unwin, said the Denham Hydrogen Demonstration Plant will extend Horizon Power’s knowledge and technical capability of hydrogen operating systems and test how to integrate and deploy this technology into remote diesel microgrids, common across regional Western Australia.

“This plant will demonstrate how hydrogen can reliably produce power for our towns currently dependent on diesel fuel power systems and allow us to transition our network away from higher emission generating sources and meet our target of no new diesel generation systems from 2025.

“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.”

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

Horizon will work closely with local and surrounding regional businesses and the community to identify supplier opportunities.

If successful, the project could be replicated throughout Horizon’s portfolio in Western Australia, and in other remote area power systems across Australia, such as within the Queensland and Northern Territory networks.

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