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Australia, just like the rest of the world, has an increasing voracity for energy. The country has shown its growing propensity for renewable energy sources over fossil fuels.
Renewable Energy - A Logical Choice
With the elevated awareness of the escalating scarceness of non-renewable energy, coupled with the motivation of consumers, governments and industries to not only future-proof their energy sources but to also reduce the damage that energy consumption does to our planet, renewables are the logical choice going forward.
Around 21% of Australia’s energy is already provided by renewable sources, tripling its usage since the earlier 2000s. Renewable energy use in the country is set to continue to grow as Australia hopes to ensure the development of a sustainable energy sector.
The challenge facing this plan is that renewable energy is intermittent, wind and solar energy sources aren’t readily available around the clock. Therefore the energy they generate when the power source is abundant needs to be stored for those times when input is down, to provide a feasible system that provides energy in a consistent manner that the fossil fuel supported grid does. Storage is an issue for renewable energy as power that is generated is usually lost if it is not used.
A Reliable System for Storing Excess Energy
To overcome this challenge, A$15 million are being invested in a project that aims to create a reliable system for storing excess energy produced by solar and wind energy by converting it into hydrogen. Australia’s government will be providing half the funds for this venture, inspired by what has already been achieved in Europe with the TSO 2020 project, which was able to create a system with the capacity of storing 8.3 metric tonnes of hydrogen in underground salt caverns in Holland. Australia’s Jemena H2GO project will develop a 500 KW electrolyzer in western Sydney to split hydrogen from water using excess power generated from renewable sources.
The H2GO project will go further than exploring how to overcome the challenge of intermittent energy supplies from renewables, it will also look into how the hydrogen produced from excess power can be used to support the country’s growing hydrogen-vehicle industry. The project will also utilize existing infrastructure, currently in place to support gas transportation, showing how its process will be more efficient than the alternative, which is storing excess energy in batteries.
Importance of Battery Storage
While battery storage may be less efficient, it is likely to play a role alongside hydrogen energy storage in Australia’s future. The country is currently leading the way in this kind of energy storage, it’s home to 100 MW/129 MWh Hornsdale Power Reserve, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery.
Since 2017 the battery has facilitated the integration of renewable energy and supported Australia’s current electric grid. Since then, further developments in battery storage have been made, with numerous large scale batteries joining the grid including Victoria’s 30 MWh Ballarat Energy Storage System, and its 25 MW/50 MWh Gannawarra Energy Storage System, South Australia’s Dalrymple Energy Storage for Commercial Renewable Integration and 5 MW Alice Springs Battery Energy Storage System.
These large scale batteries serve to store energy for when it is needed, supporting the growth in the use of renewable energy sources as it guarantees the grid power in times of low input. The Hornsdale Power Reserve, for example, converts unused energy generated by the reserve’s wind turbines within the giant lithium-ion battery, to be dispatched to the grid when needed.
Projects exploring storing energy as hydrogen, like H2GO, and those developing large scale batteries to capture renewable energy surplus are the future energy reserves that will power Australia, alongside its growing renewable energy grid.
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