Solar Hydrogen from Australia

Giles Parkinson writes at Reneweconomy about the coming visit of Japanese Prime Minister Abe to Australia and a region thereof called “Pilbara” I had never heard of until now. That region is about 502,000 square kilometers, which is around 1.4 the size of Germany, and had a whopping 48,610 in population in 2010.

As Parkinson points out, at least one group in Australia “has plans for a feasibility study” for making hydrogen from solar energy in Pilbara. That hydrogen then could be exported to Japan, if things scale up.

I recall having started a blog with the title “Hydrogen Mongolia” in 2006 with exactly the idea of making hydrogen from renewable energy in the Gobi desert. In 2012 I wrote a book titled “Energy from the Mongolian Gobi desert” about this. It is available as a free PDF file on this blog.

So I welcome the news that some Australians have plans to study the issue. Australia has great solar resources. If they start making fuel from them, the could stop exporting their stinking coal and get to supply a large part of the World’s fuel once everything has moved over to renewable.

While hydrogen is certainly one way to do it, they could also have a look at the alternative of using the limestone cycle.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

2 thoughts on “Solar Hydrogen from Australia

  1. Dear Prof.,

    while your argument that chemicals are a good method for storing and transporting energy is quite correct, however, you miss some important issues:

    1) Limestone cycle: CaO reacts with CO2, where do you get the huge amounts of CO2 from?

    2) If you want to use the reaction heat to produce steam and then generate electricty you have to think about the Carnot cycle. Save bet: Losses are lower with HVDC between Africa and Europe.

    2) Aluminium is quite nice, however, you have to bring the reaction products back to to the electrolysis, how do you do this? Only practical solution, the electrolysis takes place where the electricity from reaction of aluminium is needed, i.e. you transport first electricity.

    For me as chemist some variants of methane synthesis are more promising, methanol or ammonia are also fine, large scale liquifaction of air may be a usefull route, too. Best case is you use only air and water, no need to transport reactionproducts back.


    1. Where do you get CO2 from?

      The simplest source would be to capture it while burning coal.

      I don’t know myself if losses are higher than with HDVC, since I have no technical expertise. I just noted that the research team that proposed this idea think that losses are lower.


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