Making Fuel and Chemicals While the Sun Shines
The concept of putting something aside for a rainy day is familiar to most Australians. Applying it to electricity, however, is probably not.
The environmental benefits of renewable energy are well documented, but as more and more solar and wind power are added to the grid, their intermittent generation adds to the growing instability in the network.
Storing renewable electricity in chemical energy is seen as part of the solution to stabilise the grid and help meet peak demand. In its technology-led plan to lower emissions, the Federal Government has included a stretch goal around energy storage. The NSW Government has also established $75 Million in grants to support new technologies that provide sustainable electricity on demand. The question, of course, is how best to deliver it. The answer is renewable power-to-X (P2X).
When the renewables cup overflows
In P2X, excess and underutilised solar and wind resources are used to power technologies, like electrolysis, that are capable of converting available abundant molecules—such as water, CO2 and air—into H2 methane, syngas, methanol, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and ammonia.
Storing excess electrons in chemicals like these is far less capital intensive than alternatives like battery storage. It is also an extremely versatile way to decarbonise energy infrastructure. These carriers and chemical products can be reconverted to electricity and offer benefits beyond just the energy sector.
For example, hydrogen has a crucial role to play in Australia's National Electricity Market. Because it can provide effective energy storage at a scale beyond the energy density of batteries and at a lower cost, it will assist the electricity network to remain secure, reliable and affordable. It can also be used as a raw component in chemical manufacturing, and as power support to remote communities in various sectors.
P2X is highly attractive to investors. It allows the diversification of industry portfolios into regional areas, has the power to create job growth and will help the economy transition towards a more sustainable and prosperous future. P2X technology and products will help integrate renewable power into energy-consuming sectors like transport, agriculture and manufacturing, and speed up their decarbonisation path.
Now is the time to P2Xplore
Now is the time to be talking about P2X. Not only have the Federal and NSW Governments committed to energy storage, a second stretch goal—to produce hydrogen at under $2 per kilogram—is a clear indication that Australia is determined to play an important role in the global hydrogen economy.
At UNSW, we are busy assessing the opportunity to develop a P2X industry in New South Wales for clean fuels and chemical manufacturing. We are looking for potential locations in NSW to establish eco-industrial precincts to supply P2X products to meet local and overseas demand. The work is undertaken through a NSW P2X Industry Feasibility Study, supported by the Office of NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer.
We are now calling for interested parties to sign up to NSW P2X, a UNSW initiative to collaborate and communicate.
It’s an opportunity to work with broader stakeholders to explore P2X opportunities, contribute to and stay up-to-date with the development of the ultimate rainy-day solution.
We’d like you to be part of it.
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