Energy

Aqua Aerem to extract water from desert air and convert it to hydrogen

Aqua Aerem to extract water fr...
The "Devil's Marbles," or Karlu Karlu, about an hour south of Australia's Tennant Creek, where an innovative solar-to-hydrogen project is about to begin testing
The "Devil's Marbles," or Karlu Karlu, about an hour south of Australia's Tennant Creek, where an innovative solar-to-hydrogen project is about to begin testing
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The "Devil's Marbles," or Karlu Karlu, about an hour south of Australia's Tennant Creek, where an innovative solar-to-hydrogen project is about to begin testing
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The "Devil's Marbles," or Karlu Karlu, about an hour south of Australia's Tennant Creek, where an innovative solar-to-hydrogen project is about to begin testing

A new project in the Australian Outback will trial an innovative technique for converting solar energy into hydrogen by capturing moisture from the air and splitting it via hydrolysis, making it possible for hot, arid areas to become energy exporters.

Tennant Creek is a three-pub, 3,000-person town on the northern rim of Australia's famous red center, a colossal expanse of rocky desert. A brisk 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) drive south will get you to the great famous rock of Uluru, or you could head about the same distance north and find yourself in Darwin, with not a whole lot interrupting either trip. It's proper Crocodile Dundee territory, with what's described as a warm desert climate.

Like much of Australia's Northern Territory, it's got a lot of sun, but not a ton of water to spare for exports. So as Australia moves to set itself up as a green hydrogen-based energy exporter, Tennant creek is a good place to try out a new technology that doesn't require large volumes of municipal water, or a connection to the local power grid, to produce hydrogen.

New startup Aqua Aerem has signed a testing deal with the NT government for a 12-week trial of its solar + air to hydrogen system. Energy will be captured through a concentrator photovoltaic system with dual-axis tracking, which the company says will capture energy twice as efficiently as a regular silicon panel.

The next step is to convert that energy into transportable hydrogen via electrolysis, which needs only electricity and water as inputs. Here Aqua Aerem deploys its secret sauce: an atmospheric water capture system that sucks moisture out of the air. It works more efficiently in warmer climates, says the company, requires little in the way of maintenance and produces no waste other than air. The trial will mainly be focused on the water capture process, the other elements being fairly mature technologies at this point.

"This trial is the first stage of a pilot renewable hydrogen project," says a statement from the NT Government, "that will ultimately produce renewable hydrogen for Territory Generation’s Tennant Creek Power Station to generate green energy as part of the electricity mix for the Tennant Creek community."

Aqua Aerem's proposed system going forward involve the installation of a 15-megawatt electrolyzer that it estimates would produce around 912 tonnes of green hydrogen per year, providing about half the energy the Tennant Creek community uses.

But the endgame is much larger in scale. The company says the technology can be scaled up to much larger installations to create hydrogen in bulk export volumes for the Asian markets to the north. An interesting project, for sure. It'll be interesting to see how the economics of this system work out given that once it's set up, it has no ongoing energy or water costs.

Source: Aqua Aerem via Renew Economy

19 comments
windykites
This strikes me as a ridiculous idea. The effort involved to suck moisture out of desert air, then convert to hydrogen, seems pointless. Solar panels generate electricity, so use that.
I think this is a grant-raising exercise. Transporting hydrogen? What an expensive idea.
Oirinth
Dew traps for harvesting water for drinking and irrigation isn't unheard of but is normally reliant on coastal breezes and moist air, how it can be more efficient in an arid areas is a bit of a puzzler
riczero-b
Hope they did a bio assay, there's a lot of life going on in apparently empty desert. And that needs water.
GeoffreyR.Gunning
Aha, the Devil's Marbles, N.T., Australia. I have a photograph of me in 1972 trying to dislodge the right hand stone. I didn't succeed due to a lack of spinach. But during the wet season it does get very humid there, so extracting water from the atmosphere is not completely insane. But transporting the hydrogen from this sparsely-populated region in the dead-heart of Australia is.
Demosthenes
To see a working system on the way to practise: https://aquahara.com/
michael_dowling
windykites: Yes,hydrogen as an energy storage technology refuses to die. It is a grossly inefficient way to capture renewable energy. Better to store the solar panel output in batteries.
Nobody
This sounds like it might end up filed under the too good to be true category. Electrolysis seems like a huge waste of electricity and water in an area that needs both.
CliffG
Such a lame idea and a waste of perfectly good solar energy. Use the water to drink. Use the solar to power things or to store in batteries. Hydrogen is not the solution to any of today's problems.
Tacky-on
More proof that hydrogen will never be an energy source, and today its not even an energy currency as the exchange rate is way too poor. Maybe someday there will be an even trade of converting some other energy to hydrogen and back again, but for now, Hydrogen is NOT a source of energy and not even a practical currency.
Pablo
It may be an environmental issue to remove moisture from the air in a location that is already dry. It's also a pretty expensive process to generate fuel for export, particularly when competition arises in areas with lower costs.