Could Hydrogen Replace Diesel in Large-Scale Agriculture?

NATALIE FILATOFF, PV Magazine

The objective of the Energy Independent Farming (EIF) partnership is to take big agricultural enterprises offgrid, powered by renewable energy, while generating enough green hydrogen through electrolysis to replace all of their diesel energy consumption. In April, EIF secured AUD 250,000 ($193,160) in Victorian government funding, under the Australian state’s Agriculture Energy Investment Plan, to develop a replicable model.

“According to our models, any farm of around 8,000 acres and beyond is a candidate for energy independence,” said Thomas Blair of the Blairfarms dynasty, which grows grain near Horsham, Victoria.

His operation, which also specializes in lentils and chickpeas, uses around AUD 200,000 worth of diesel fuel per year. That diesel powers  the farm machinery and Blairfarms’ grain-cleaning facility, which runs on diesel-generated power 14 to 18 hours a day.

“Because we’re remote in terms of the grid, we can’t hook up to three-phase power,” Blair told pv magazine Australia. “We’ve been pricing it up for years.”

However, he says that now the price point for going offgrid is comparable – with numerous greater benefits.

Blair was formerly in the armed forces. After his last tour of Afghanistan, he spent a few years with his mother’s family in Denmark. “I needed a bit of time to clear my head,” he said.

It was in Europe that renewable energy infused his consciousness.

“You could go into any household in Denmark, and it wouldn’t be long until the conversation turned to renewables,” he said.

When he returned to Victoria last year, just before the pandemic hit, Blair familiarized himself with the farm accounts. He realized just how much the business was spending on diesel, and the extent of the emissions that were being generated.

The objective of the Energy Independent Farming (EIF) partnership is to take big agricultural enterprises offgrid, powered by renewable energy, while generating enough green hydrogen through electrolysis to replace all of their diesel energy consumption. In April, EIF secured AUD 250,000 ($193,160) in Victorian government funding, under the Australian state’s Agriculture Energy Investment Plan, to develop a replicable model.

“According to our models, any farm of around 8,000 acres and beyond is a candidate for energy independence,” said Thomas Blair of the Blairfarms dynasty, which grows grain near Horsham, Victoria.

His operation, which also specializes in lentils and chickpeas, uses around AUD 200,000 worth of diesel fuel per year. That diesel powers  the farm machinery and Blairfarms’ grain-cleaning facility, which runs on diesel-generated power 14 to 18 hours a day.

“Because we’re remote in terms of the grid, we can’t hook up to three-phase power,” Blair told pv magazine Australia. “We’ve been pricing it up for years.”

However, he says that now the price point for going offgrid is comparable – with numerous greater benefits.

Blair was formerly in the armed forces. After his last tour of Afghanistan, he spent a few years with his mother’s family in Denmark. “I needed a bit of time to clear my head,” he said.

It was in Europe that renewable energy infused his consciousness.

“You could go into any household in Denmark, and it wouldn’t be long until the conversation turned to renewables,” he said.

When he returned to Victoria last year, just before the pandemic hit, Blair familiarized himself with the farm accounts. He realized just how much the business was spending on diesel, and the extent of the emissions that were being generated.