Queensland’s agricultural sector has an established history of managing its waste streams effectively, ranging from innovative value-add products on-farm to combat food waste, organics and nutrient recycling, and bioenergy production. Now, there are new opportunities arising for the sector to value add resource streams and agricultural by-products to realise bio-economy efficiencies and maximise financial returns. Research and governments are driving changes to policy and funding arrangements to maximise these opportunities which strive to move organic residuals and agricultural by-products up the value chain, leading to a biobased economy and essentially valorising its waste streams.
Hydrogen is a potentially valuable energy resource for use on-farm because it can be produced during times of excess electricity generation from solar or other renewables and for its propensity to be stored or distributed as a liquid or gas. Additionally, hydrogen fuel generation is supported at both state and federal government levels with estimates that the Australian hydrogen industry could be worth $11b and employ over 8,000 people by 2030.
A significant amount of research and development is currently underway into the technologies to efficiently produce hydrogen and it might not be long before it is an affordable option for use on farm. With practical uses including on-farm solar systems that produce hydrogen with an electrolyser when the system is not supplying power to a pump or shed, the conversion of farm vehicles and generators to fuel cells to utilise on-farm hydrogen, and the production of hydrogen from animal waste for use by heating systems or a fuel cell to provide power for lighting and ventilation. It is highly versatile energy source.
With significant renewable energy resources and exciting new renewable energy projects, Queensland is well placed for green hydrogen production. However, it is important that government regulation does not hamper its progress by stifling economies of scale opportunities for farms and allow the ‘importation and exportation’ of hydrogen across multiple systems. The state’s agricultural sector is adopting more innovative bioeconomy opportunities, the government must now flip the switch and power the way.