South Australia seeks proposals for hydrogen electrolyser and power plant in Whyalla
The South Australia government has launched the formal process for partners in its ambitious green hydrogen power plant proposal for the steel city of Whyalla, a plan it hopes will be as transformational for the state as the original Tesla big battery.
The state Labor government plans to build a 250MW hydrogen electrolyser at Whyalla, along with a 200MW green hydrogen power plant, and hydrogen storage. It wants all this to be delivered within three years by December, 2025.
The request for proposals (RFP) is focusing on the supply, construction and operation of the hydrogen plant and equipment, as well as interest in purchasing green hydrogen produced at the facility.
State energy minister Tom Koutsantonis says South Australia is already the world leader in renewable energy production, with wind and solar accounting for 69 per cent of its energy generation in 2022, and it now wants to become a global leader in green hydrogen.
As the world looks to decarbonise, South Australia is making a once-in-a-generation investment in green hydrogen – an investment that places the Upper Spencer Gulf region at the epicentre of a renewable energy revolution,” Koutsantonis said in a statement.
“Local power, local jobs, global exports, global leadership – we will seize this opportunity to transform not just the energy sector but potentially the state’s economic future.
“Our state is globally recognised as a leader in renewable energy generation, and our coincident wind and solar is our prime advantage, making us perfectly positioned to become a word leader in green hydrogen production, storage and export.
Koutsantonis said the government-owned hydrogen power plant will help South Australia become a substantial global player in green hydrogen production, and give the state an early advantage in attracting associated supply chain jobs, ongoing maintenance and potentially manufacturing.
The green hydrogen power facility will be the first of its kind in Australia and one of the biggest of its type in the world. Green hydrogen is expected to be used in a variety of different roles – particularly in hard to abate sectors such as fertilisers and industrial uses.
But its use as a power plant is not normally highly rated, given the inefficiencies of the conversion process, but South Australia sees a hydrogen power plant as a potential source of long duration storage.
South Australia is used to proving doubters wrong. At the time it announced plans for the 100MW/129MWh Tesla big battery at Hornsdale in early 2017, even the market operator at the time did not think that any big battery above 1MW was feasible in the grid.
It has created Hydrogen Power South Australia, a government owned entity that will operate the power plant and the electrolyser. It is led by Sam Crafter, who also led the government team that secured the Tesla big battery at Hornsdale.
Crafter says the plan is to use cheap renewable, particularly in the middle of the day, as the source of power for the facility, and this will also help the grid challenges that the state faces.
“There’s a lot of talk about use of hydrogen as power, and is it efficient. If you think about what the government is trying to achieve, which is having dispatchable power, and the electrolyser will also provide flexible load, Crafter tell RenewEconomy.
Koutsantonis says he hopes the Whyalla hydrogen plans will encourage further development of green hydrogen opportunities in South Australia, drawing on the state’s advantage through abundant renewable energy.
The state has a number of different gigawatt scale renewable energy projects that are looking for opportunities in green hydrogen. The state expects to reach net 100 per cent renewables later this decade but has set a target of 500 per cent renewables based on its hydrogen opportunities.
The project is being built on the lands of the Barngarla people, and several sites have been identified within a 15km radius to the north east of Whyalla, close to critical infrastructure and transport nodes.
The preferred sites for the hydrogen power station are a 238 hectare parcel of land in the Whyalla Industrial Estate and an 8.7 hectare parcel of land in the Cultana Industrial Estate.
“The scale of the sites caters for potential future expansion of the scope and size of operations over time, along with potential future partnering options and flexible site design,” the government says.
Interested respondents are encouraged to register and download the Hydrogen Jobs Plan RFP from the South Australian Tenders & Contracts website.
Giles Parkinson is founder and editor of Renew Economy, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid and founder/editor of the EV-focused The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 40 years and is a former business and deputy editor of the Australian Financial Review.