Launceston boards flight to green hydrogen

A hydrogen plant powered by solar energy is on the drawing board for spare land at the Launceston Airport.

Developer Countrywide Hydrogen signed a memorandum of understanding with the airport on Thursday as Tasmania looks to add the future fuel to its arsenal of clean energy powering the state and Australia.

If feasible, a solar farm could be built on vacant airport land to provide electricity to power the process to make green hydrogen, rather than drawing power from the electricity grid.

Hydrogen would then be produced using a five-megawatt electrolyser to separate hydrogen from water, with the potential to add another electrolyser and scale up as demand increases.

"Hydrogen is a burgeoning industry and Tasmania has plans to be a leading and genuinely green hydrogen producer," Tasmanian Energy and Renewables Minister Guy Barnett said.

He said the Tasmanian government recognises that hydrogen will be an "important enabler" for the switch to a clean energy system, especially where electrification is not feasible.

Backed by up to $100 million from superannuation fund HESTA, Countrywide has a 10MW electrolyser plant at Bell Bay and a 5MW facility at Brighton near Hobart under development, as well as Victorian projects in Melbourne and Portland.

Countrywide, a subsidiary of ASX-listed ReNu Energy, said local green hydrogen could support Tasmanian industry switch from gas, and heavy transport make the transition from diesel to emission-free hydrogen.

Managing director Geoff Drucker said using solar power would lower the cost of hydrogen production, as well as the price of hydrogen supplied to customers.

"There is potential for TasGas to install a new gas reticulation system at Western Junction, delivering a decarbonised natural gas network for the local commercial and industrial zone," he said.

Launceston Airport CEO Shane O'Hare said the project, if feasible, would support their ambitious emissions reductions targets through the provision of solar-powered electricity.

"It could also support our vision to develop a logistics hub at Western Junction encompassing road, rail and air," he said.

The hub could include on-site hydrogen refuelling for bus and truck operators and fuel-cell vehicle servicing and maintenance, in the process upskilling local diesel mechanics and technicians.