Victoria looks to hydrogen for emergency communication backup power

Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Lily D’Ambrosio, has launched the Neerim North mobile network renewable hydrogen back-up system.

Hydrogen Generator Telstra Neerim North
Hydrogen Power Generator at Neerim North Telstra Tower. Image: Energys

The Victorian Labor Government has invested $1.1 million into a pilot project to enhance community connectivity during emergencies and power outages. Part of the broader $6.6 million Renewable Hydrogen Commercialisation Pathways Fund, The Telstra Hydrogen Fuel Cell Pilot project is trialing renewable hydrogen back-up systems for regional Telstra mobile network facilities.

Designed to function like batteries, the fuel cells use hydrogen as fuel to produce electricity through an electrochemical reaction. The fuel cells in the backup system have a power output of 10 kilowatts each. The hydrogen generators will deliver up to 72 hours of continuous operation, critical for maintaining mobile network connectivity during prolonged power outages.

The Telstra Hydrogen Fuel Cell Pilot project has installed five of these hydrogen fuel cells in Victorian communities that have experienced severe storms, specifically Neerim North, Coldstream, Kinglake, Christmas Hills, and Chum Creek.

The Renewable Hydrogen Commercialisation Pathways Fund supports various companies undertaking hydrogen pilots, trials, and demonstrations, including Volgren Australia, Viva Energy, Energys Australia, and Boundary Power. In June 2023, Boundary Power commissioned Australia’s first solar-renewable hydrogen standalone power system.

Energys Australia, which manufactures the Telstra Hydrogen Fuel Cells at their Mulgrave factory, has also been supported through the Commercialisation Pathways Fund to develop a renewable hydrogen production facility aimed at facilitating the uptake of renewable hydrogen in Victoria.

Minister D’Ambrosio stated, “Victoria’s Gas Substitution Roadmap confirms that renewable hydrogen will play a critical, targeted role in the energy transition by strengthening energy resilience as we keep communities powered reliably and affordably.”

Telstra’s Executive for Integrated Network, Facilities & Environment, Vicki Romanovski, commented, “Our network and other infrastructure can be affected during an extreme weather event and renewable hydrogen is an alternative energy option that could help keep our customers connected. The pilot will help us determine its future role in this space.”

Read more about the Victorian Government's $6.6 million Renewable Hydrogen Commercialisation Pathways Fund here.

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