Plan for hydrogen project; Heywood mooted for $160 million solar farm investment
GLENELG Shire’s goal to become a world leader in the next big thing in renewable energy will be based around a $160 million solar farm planned for near Heywood.
The ambitious project, backed by both local and international heavy-hitters, could see hydrogen generated from the process and used to fuel vehicles around the world.
The project plays to a natural competitive advantage the region has – the proximity to the Heywood Terminal Station for supplying power to the grid and the Port of Portland to export hydrogen is considered by backers to be almost unique in Australia.
Its backers say about 350 direct and indirect jobs would be created during construction, and a further 200 to 300 during peak production periods. The exact location of the project is still being finalised.
The Heywood Solar Farm/Heywood Hydrogen project is led by Melbourne-based Countrywide Renewable Energy.
The consortium looking to get it off the ground includes the Port of Portland, AusNet Services (the owner of the power transmission network which operates the terminal station and manages the interconnector), ITM Power (a UK company behind the technology that will be used), the CSIRO and Deakin University.
Glenelg Shire Council is also a member of the consortium and has applied to the state government’s Victorian Hydrogen Investment Program for funding to prepare a business case to progress the project further.
The Heywood project would be modelled on a similar large-scale operation in Germany. The solar farm would be 80MW in size, producing enough electricity to power about 40,000 homes and about 3000 tonnes of pure hydrogen gas a year.
Countrywide director Geoff Drucker told the Observer the Heywood project would use technology called an electrolyser, developed by ITM, which would use excess energy produced by the solar farm to produce hydrogen.
He believed it could eventually become a $1 billion project as it could be expanded if other investors came on board over the duration of the project – the solar farm had a projected lifespan of 25 years.
The hydrogen would largely be collected and exported to Asia through the Port of Portland (either as liquefied gas or in ammonia) though it could also power gas turbines or fuel-cell electrical generators at times of peak demand on the power grid, or when there were poor conditions for solar generation.
“It’ll be a project that is very large scale,” Mr Drucker said.
“We’ll have a number of partners involved in it, all important to bringing together different pieces of technology for the production of hydrogen.”
Another option that would be explored was mixing hydrogen into the natural gas network.