In the Australian Outback, a new project will test an innovative technique for converting solar energy into hydrogen by capturing and splitting humidity from the air through hydrolysis, enabling hot, arid areas to become energy exporters.
As with most of the Northern Territory of Australia, it has a lot of light, but not a tonne of water to spare for exports. As Australia moves to establish itself as a renewable exporter of energy dependent on hydrogen, Tennant Creek is a good place to test out a new technology that does not require huge quantities of urban water to generate hydrogen, or a link to the local power grid. For a 12-week trial of its solar+ air to hydrogen system, new start-up Aqua Aerem has signed a research agreement with the NT government. Energy can be collected by a dual-axis tracking concentrator photovoltaic system, which the firm claims will collect energy twice as effectively as a standard silicon screen. The next step is to turn the energy by electrolysis into transportable hydrogen, which only requires electricity and water as inputs. Aqua Aerem is deploying its magic sauce here: A method for collecting ambient water that sucks moisture from the air. In warmer climates, it runs more effectively, says the firm, needs little maintenance and generates little waste other than air. The trial will primarily concentrate on the method of water capture, with the other aspects at this stage being reasonably advanced technologies.
“This trial is the first step of a pilot project for renewable hydrogen, "a declaration from the NT Government states. This would potentially create renewable hydrogen for the Tennant Creek Power Station of Territory Generation to provide green energy as part of the Tennant Creek community's electricity mix. The planned device by Aqua Aerem involves the construction of a 15-megawatt electrolyzer that it projects will generate about 912 tonnes of green hydrogen per year, supplying around half the electricity consumed by the city of Tennant Creek. But the endgame is far greater in scale. In order to produce hydrogen in bulk export quantities for the Asian markets to the north, the company says the system can be scaled up to even larger facilities. For sure, an exciting project. It would be important to see how this system's economy operates, provided that it has no recurring energy or water expenses until it is set up.