Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Future Industries is planning a 1GW solar power plant in Australia to reduce costs and “build green energy on a large scale” after acquiring a majority stake in Dutch solar and hydrogen technology group HyET.
The acquisition of a 60 per cent stake in HyET is the first concrete step from Forrest and FFI to fulfill its magnificent vision of rolling out more than one hundred gigawatts of green hydrogen capacity in Australia and around the world, powered by renewable energy.
These plans will depend on significant cost reductions in both solar cells and hydrogen electrolyzer technology, and HyET will invest in both. Its “Powerfoil” solar technology is described as extremely light and with a significantly lower leveled energy cost.
“Green energy must be available on an industrial, global scale. We do not have time to wait, we have to act now, “Forrest said in a statement.
“HyET companies’ technologies are helping us reach that turning point, and the world will seriously begin the journey to becoming zero-carbon.”
FFI CEO Julie Shuttleworth said the company had already begun design for a 1GW Powerfoil solar plant in Australia. It was not immediately clear where this will be located.
“On this scale, we aim to quickly reduce costs at a faster rate than is possible with conventional Solar PV technology,” she said. It would be by far the largest photovoltaic module factory ever built in Australia.
Forrest is already a backer alongside billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes of the Northern Territory Sun Cable project, which proposes the world’s largest solar cell plant — up to 20GW — and more than 40GWh of battery storage to supply Singapore and local industry.
His own plans for significant renewable hydrogen capacity in Australia would also require dozens of gigawatts of large-scale wind and solar, most likely in Western Australia. He has reportedly negotiated access to land, but no detailed details have come to light.
HyET also has an interesting hydrogen compressor technology that Shuttleworth says will help FFI reduce the cost of green hydrogen.
“FFI’s goal is to become the world’s leading, fully renewable energy and green product company,” she said.
“The addition of HyET Solar and HyET Hydrogen to our portfolio of FFI companies builds on our commitment to developing technologies needed to manage emissions and global warming.
Not much has been heard about HyET’s Powerfoil technology, but the company claims that its ultra-low weight (0.6 kg / m2 or a small fraction of standard panels) means it can be installed without expensive support frames and structures.
It says again that it will lead to a 30 percent reduction in the leveled electricity costs compared to traditional crystalline silicon glass panels (c-Si), and means that it can also be integrated into building elements.
And it says that the materials it uses are plentiful, largely silicon and aluminum, and will provide an energy payment in less than a year.
So far, the technology has only been installed in small capacities, including a roof at IKEA in the Netherlands, gas stations in Oman and Indonesia, and on a cruise ship operating in the Galapagos Islands (see image below).
Details of the transaction between FFI and HyET shareholders were not disclosed. The founders of HyET – SuperNova NV and Royal Vopak remain the only other shareholders in both companies.
“We are incredibly pleased to have teamed up with Fortescue Future Industries,” said Rombout Swanborn, founder and CEO of HyET Hydrogen and HyET Solar in a statement.
“Not only does this enable us to contribute much more effectively to the creation of a renewable energy infrastructure, but now we can also greatly increase the scope of our activities – two important goals since we started our businesses.”
Giles Parkinson is the founder and editor of Renew Economy, and is also the founder of One Step Off The Grid and the founder / editor of EV-focused The Driven. Giles has been a journalist for 40 years and is a former business and deputy director of the Australian Financial Review.