Works have begun on what will become Australia’s first community microgrid to incorporate renewable hydrogen, a $9.3 million project in the Western Australia town of Denham that aims to demonstrate a sustainable alternative to diesel to power remote towns.
Western Australia hydrogen industry minister Alannah MacTiernan last week officially launched works at the site, where state-owned utility Horizon Power will install a 704kW solar farm, a 348kW hydrogen electrolyser and a 100kW fuel cell.
The project, which has been jointly funded by the state McGowan government ($5.7m) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency ($2.6m), marks the first time in Australia that renewable hydrogen will be used to power a remote community.
The coastal town of Denham, which sits on one of the western-most points of the state, about 100km south of Carnarvon, was chosen for the project due to its proximity to wind and solar resources and land availability. It is currently powered by a combination of diesel and wind.
As RenewEconomy reported in January 2020, both the town’s group of four wind turbines – installed between 1997 and 1999 – and its diesel plant have reached the end of their operational lives, giving Horizon Power the opportunity to find a new and potentially more renewables replacement.
The Denham microgrid will work by using excess renewables to create hydrogen via the electrolyser, which will be stored on site and then used as required, including to power up to 100 homes.
MacTiernan said construction of the hydrogen power plant was due to start in August and the entire project was expected to be commissioned and operational by early 2022.
“Western Australia has an extraordinary opportunity to become a leader in the emerging renewable hydrogen industry and the McGowan government is on the front foot in taking advantage of this opportunity,” the minister said.
“The demonstration project in Denham is leading the rollout of hydrogen plants in community-based remote microgrids and has the potential to be implemented across the state to benefit a wide range of small towns and communities.
“Investing in renewable hydrogen sends a clear message to the industry that we are serious about Western Australia being powered by clean energy,” MacTiernan said.
Western Australia energy minister Bill Johnston said the Denham project was expected to keep Horizon Power at the leading edge of new technologies, as the state worked towards its commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
“The plant will extend WA’s knowledge of hydrogen systems and allow Horizon Power to consider implementing microgrids and hydrogen technology into other regional areas,” he said.