Australia’s car manufacturing days may be over, but one maker is turning an old asset into a hub for hydrogen from solar.
Toyota’s former car plant at Altona in Melbourne’s south-west will soon become a commercial-grade hydrogen production and refuelling site.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) will contribute $3.1 million to help create the Toyota Australia Hydrogen Centre. Total cost of the centre is $7.4 million.
Solar powered hydrogen hub an infrastructure first
The centre will produce hydrogen from solar energy through electrolysis then compress it into fuel cells. This can then power vehicles and other machinery.
The Hydrogen Centre will also include an education centre and Victoria’s first commercial-scale hydrogen vehicle refuelling station infrastructure.
A report last year prepared for ARENA by ACIL Allen Consulting has shown that Australia is in a strong position to take advantage of a future hydrogen from solar export market.
Hydrogen could potentially allow Australia to export renewable energy to other countries, particularly in Asia. Japan has already set a 10-year strategy to become a large-scale importer of Australian renewable hydrogen.
ARENA chief executive officer Darren Miller said the Hydrogen Centre would demonstrate hydrogen from solar as a viable fuel source. The potential for use includes transport and as an energy storage medium.
“Toyota is helping to pave the way for more renewably-powered vehicles in Australia, where the uptake of electric vehicles has been slower than other countries,” he said.
“The demonstration of low-cost hydrogen production and distribution is key to the uptake of hydrogen-powered electric vehicles in areas such as truck, bus and government fleets.”
Hydrogen from solar production process
According to the US Alternative Fuels Data Center, hydrogen is almost always found as part of another compound, such as water (H2O). It needs separating from the compounds that contain it before viable use as a fuel.
Hydrogen produced from water using renewable energy, such as hydrogen from solar, is a zero-emissions strategy after initial plant installation.
However, fossil fuels and biomass are also sources of industrial hydrogen. The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen therefore depends on its production process.