A few days ago the local Adelaide paper ran a story about SA Labor’s plans for a hydrogen fuelled future. Apparently a hydrogen fuelled power station will “cut electricity bills and create thousands of jobs”. The objective of the plan, costed at $593 million, is to “harness South Australia’s wind and solar energy to generate clean power”. As an extra it would also create “at least another 10,000 jobs through kick-starting projects from a $20 billion pipeline of proposed renewable investments in SA”
It sounds good: get rid of nasty “emissions” and save the planet as well as give the proles some cheaper electricity and jobs. It is an energy free lunch – what could go wrong?
GE has a paper on running gas turbines on hydrogen and it can be found at https://www.ge.com (paper GEA 33861). In this paper I found some interesting information about the energy costs involved in turning water into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis and it seems that the free lunch is quite expensive from an energy perspective.
The Labor plan is to build a power station capable of putting out 200 MW. “Excess” renewable energy” would be used to produce the hydrogen that would then be used to generate electricity.
Using the GE data I did the numbers for a nearly 200 MW power plant using 6 of their TM 2500 gas turbines, (actually 204 MW). The table below gives the numbers. Note this is based on one hours running, (A TM 2500 is rated at 34 MW).
The 204 MW station uses 15.6 tonnes of hydrogen per hour and the energy needed to electrolyse that hydrogen is 1,128 MWh giving an overall loss of 924 MWh. Using a cost of $6.00 per Kg for hydrogen, (quoted in a number of places as the current cost), the cost of hydrogen per MWh is $460.00.
I suspect this idea is partly driven by the proposal to curtail domestic solar when the sun is shining too much so some means of utilising the excess capacity. It would stop the need to dud the proles yet again after they have spent their hard earned cash to help save the planet and perhaps get some money back, (if they were fortunate enough to get a good feed in tariff when governments were spending like drunken sailors).
The “plan” has been developed with the advice of economists and at the risk of upsetting the plethora of economists at Catallaxy this is probably its major flaw – other than it is a monumentally stupid idea. All this stuff sounds simple but the details are more complex. In the numbers above there is no allowance for the energy used to liquefy the hydrogen so it can be stored or the modifications needed to get regular gas turbines that use natural gas to be able to use hydrogen, (it is not as simple as it seems – read the GE paper). The juggling that would be needed to ensure hydrogen could be made when needed while trying to keep everyone’s lights on would be immense and prone to failure when nature does not cooperate. Also, SA is a bit short of water in case anyone has not noticed. This does not bother the advising economist, we could just use the de-sal plant.
If the above was not sufficient to give this idea the flick we need to remember that it is being promoted by the folk who applauded when Port Augusta power station was destroyed, along with 500 livelihoods, spent millions on diesel powered turbines to keep the lights on and gave us the “big battery”. The sad thing is that Mr Marshall and his mob think this stuff is marvellous and so does Morrison, so we are stuffed either way.