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Frontier Energy claims solar can provide cheap green hydrogen in WA

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A new assessment of a large-scale solar-powered hydrogen project in Western Australia reveals that Frontier Energy has the ability to create commercial quantities of green hydrogen at costs far below industry projections.

Frontier’s efforts are concentrated on its Bristol Springs project, located around 120 kilometers south of Perth, where it wants to construct a 114MW solar farm and a 36.6MW alkaline electrolyser to produce green hydrogen.

A fresh research considered incorporating wind into the project, but concluded that it would not be cost-effective. Prior to a longer-term plan to raise the project to one gigawatt, it was determined that increasing the solar component to approximately 468 MW would be best.

According to Frontier Executive Chairman Grant Davey, total unit costs, including capital, for the first stage of hydrogen production are predicted to average approximately $2.83 per kilogram, making it one of the lowest cost manufacturers in Australia.

On the basis of current electrolyzer and renewable energy pricing, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency estimates that the cost of creating green hydrogen in Australia will range between $6 and $9 per kilogram.

Frontier’s cost estimate is partly influenced by the project’s 846-hectare site 120 kilometers from Perth, which makes use of local existing infrastructure and eliminates the need to construct its own.

This includes access to the Landwehr Terminal, which enables the sale of excess solar-renewable energy to the South West Interconnected System, as well as diverse water sources. This avoids the need for Frontier to incur capital-intensive infrastructure expenditures, such as desalination.

Connecting to SWIS via the Landwehr Terminal would enable the generation of additional money from surplus power sales, reserve capacity credits, and long-term contracts (Large-Scale Generation Certificates).

According to Davey, it would also allow power to be drawn down during periods of poor solar energy yields to meet the electrolyser’s energy demand. This will enable the grid to function as a battery for the project, he explained.

Frontier predicts that its initial hydrogen output will be marketed on the domestic market, with its first customers likely being long-distance pipelines and energy storage facilities.

Discussions over the project’s financing are anticipated to begin later this year, with the company anticipating extra funding from government grants and incentives.

Frontier evaluated the viability of both wind and solar energy options, but determined that wind was not competitive and that a solar-only solution would yield the greatest results. Capital-intensive battery storage was also deemed uneconomical.

Woodside, a large energy producer, is proposing the creation of a 1,7 GW green hydrogen plant in Tasmania using a combination of solar and wind power. In contrast, Frontier’s strategy entails the construction of a 1,3 GW green hydrogen plant.

The production of so-called “green” hydrogen involves passing an electric current through water using an electrolyzer fueled by renewable energy. The creation of “blue” hydrogen involves the use of carbon-emitting natural gas.

According to the International Energy Agency, Australia ranks seventh in the world with 51 hydrogen energy projects.

Davey stated that Frontier’s long-term goal is to create more than 1GW of renewable energy, and that conversations are now underway to identify other land options to increase output.

In a recent research, the International Energy Agency stated that hydrogen energy is seen as a significant energy carrier for the thorough decarbonization of the chemical, steel, and transportation industries, as well as for long-term energy storage.

The World Energy Council projects that by 2050, hydrogen energy will account for up to 25 percent of the world’s final energy demand.

Nedim Husomanovic

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