The selection of Solar Thermal as the technology solution to make green methanol has been praised by the Australian Solar Thermal Research Institute (ASTRI), which says Solar Thermal is a technology that could help Australia reach net-zero by helping to decarbonise hard-to-abate industries.
Last week the Australian and German governments announced a consortia under the German-Australian Hydrogen Innovation and Technology (HyGATE) Incubator Program, to receive funding for a green methanol demonstration plant at Port Augusta, South Australia.
The HyGATE plant will use Concentrated Solar Thermal Power (CSP) – a type of Solar Thermal technology that stores reflected heat from the sun’s rays, which is then used to make electricity overnight. This technology, which typically encompasses over 12 hours of storage, allows for a 24/7 renewable power solution.
Director of ASTRI, Dominic Zaal, said the HyGATE project would generate ‘green’ methanol, a hydrogen derivative that is used as fuel for the global shipping and aviation sectors. Its green status comes from using zero-emission solar energy, in the form of heat and power, to produce the methanol.
“The production of methanol is a thermal process involving the synthesis of hydrogen and carbon dioxide,” said Mr Zaal. “CSP’s ability to provide both power and heat, over a 24-hour time period, makes it an ideal technology solution for green methanol production.
“CSP’s power is used for the electrolysis required in hydrogen production, while CSP’s heat is used for the methanol synthesis process. This technology is ideal for Australia’s high levels of solar radiation.”
The Solar Methanol Consortium includes Vast Solar, Fichtner Engineering, and Calix, and seeks to provide zero-emission green methanol at a commercial price, which will help the aviation and shipping industries decarbonise away from hydrocarbon fuels. Decarbonising transport sectors to minimise climate impacts is one of the most critical challenges facing the global community.
Mr Zaal said another benefit of CSP was its ability to produce large quantities of methanol, 24/7.
“As CSP plants increase in size, the unit cost of energy output decreases, making it the best technology solution to meet the bulk production needs of the shipping and aviation sectors,” said Mr Zaal. “As demand for renewable fuels such as methanol and hydrogen increase, the ability to produce these fuels day and night will also become a critical factor.”
He said in addition to renewable fuel production, there was a need for 24/7 renewable energy solutions in utility scale power, remote mining, and industrial process heat.
“As dependence on fossil fuels decreases, CSP as part of an integrated renewable energy solution, will play an increasingly important role in these markets for the over-night supply of renewable energy.”