Hy­dro­gen – the green su­per­fuel

New Zealand hy­dro­gen pilot scheme with clean en­ergy ap­pli­ca­tions for re­mote com­mu­ni­ties set to wow the world.

Element - - Clean Technology - Alis­ter Gar­diner

The head of a ground­break­ing New Zealand clean en­ergy ex­per­i­ment will present his find­ings to the world at Oc­to­ber’s All En­ergy Aus­tralia 2013 expo. Alis­ter Gar­diner, from Cal­laghan In­no­va­tion, will show­case his hy­dro­gen en­ergy pilot pro­gramme at the clean en­ergy con­fer­ence and expo – an an­nual gath­er­ing of thou­sands of re­new­able en­ergy ex­perts and in­ter­ested par­ties.

Gar­diner’s pilot could even­tu­ally ben­e­fit thou­sands of iso­lated New Zealand and Aus­tralian com­mu­ni­ties and South Pa­cific is­lands.

Gar­diner says he was orig­i­nally in­ter­ested in de­vel­op­ing fuel cells for trans­port ap­pli­ca­tions but soon re­alised the high­est en­ergy costs were in iso­lated ar­eas.

“This is where they cur­rently use diesel and LPG for ev­ery­thing and both of those emit highly un­de­sir­able pol­lu­tants in­clud­ing green­house gases,” he says.

Last Novem­ber Gar­diner and his team de­ployed a small hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion sys­tem on a wildlife re­serve in Welling­ton Har­bour and the re­sults have been re­mark­able.

De­signed specif­i­cally to cap­i­talise upon sur­plus re­new­able elec­tric­ity pro­duced from wind and so­lar PV, the pilot pro­gram has shown just how ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient hy­dro­gen is.

“Al­though we have only used the sys­tem in Welling­ton Har­bour in­ter­mit­tently, it has pro­duced more than enough hy­dro­gen to power the heat­ing of wa­ter and cook­ing re­quire­ments in a typ­i­cal en­ergy ef­fi­cient home.

“Op­er­at­ing the equip­ment less than half the time, it has pro­duced 800 kilo­watt hours of hy­dro­gen.

“The tech­nol­ogy is scal­able and could quite eas­ily be used as the sole source of wa­ter heat­ing and cook­ing for small com­mu­ni­ties such as those in out­back Aus­tralia and on is­lands in New Zealand and through­out the South Pa­cific,” Mr Gar­diner says.

He says mod­el­ling shows the costs of pro­duc­ing hy­dro­gen are com­pa­ra­ble to the use of diesel and LPG, mak­ing it im­me­di­ately vi­able af­ter man­u­fac­tur­ing scale up.

Mr Gar­diner says that be­fore ob­tain­ing the most re­cent re­sults, his team had al­ready proven how use­ful hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion could be by po­si­tion­ing a small demon­stra­tion plant in To­tara Val­ley in re­mote Wairarapa on New Zealand’s North Is­land.

“It is re­ally great news that could, in time, do away with the need for dirty fu­els to power re­mote com­mu­ni­ties.

“There is no doubt in my mind that it is cost ef­fec­tive. If we had any qualms that it would cost more we wouldn’t be talk­ing about it. Put sim­ply, it doesn’t.

“The last six months have proven be­yond doubt that it is a prac­ti­cal al­ter­na­tive to com­bus­tion fu­els.

“What we are dis­cussing here is a par­a­digm shift in think­ing about re­mote en­ergy use.

“Com­bined heat and power (CHP) gen­er­ally uses fos­sil fu­els to pro­duce heat and elec­tric­ity and in this case we are us­ing sur­plus elec­tric­ity to pro­duce clean fuel for heat­ing wa­ter and cook­ing,” Mr Gar­diner says.

He says hy­dro­gen is set to play a far greater role in both Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

Gar­diner talked about us­ing hy­dro­gen as “a clean means of cook­ing snags or king prawns on a bar­be­cue. They taste just as good but they don’t have any down side when it comes to pol­lut­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. How good is that?”

DoC staff fire up the hy­dro­gen-pow­ered bar­be­cue. Ex­cess power from wind tur­bines and

so­lar panels was used to pro­duce the hy­dro­gen.

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