A CHEMICAL that can be stripped from water could keep the lights on as Australia shifts to 100 per cent renewable power.
Bendigo's council wants 100 per cent renewable energy by 2036. But what happens when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing?
That is a question consistently raised by renewable energy's doubters, Bendigo expert and chair of Ammonia Energy Association Australia John Mott says.
"We have people running around saying that we can't keep expanding renewable energy without causing problems - that we need this 'baseload' of other power," he said.
There is a chemical that can tackle those problems and it is already being used in everything everything from fridges to fertilisers, cleaning products and explosives, Mr Mott said.
Pure ammonia could be one of the best ingredients for storing energy created by large-scale solar farms, he says.
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Right now ammonia is commonly stripped from coal or natural gas, but there are predictions demand for "green ammonia" - made from water, air and renewable electricity - could start rising.
"It's not just us sitting around here saying 'wouldn't it be great to export carbon-free energy?' What we are trying to do is respond to the requests, or, shall we say, demands of our customers," Mr Mott says.
That demand is coming squarely from Japan which, in the aftermath of a 2011 nuclear crisis at a power plant in Fukushima, is turning ammonia and other energy sources.
The country hopes to meet its energy needs by shipping in three million tons of ammonia a year by 2030, Mr Mott says.
It could be lucrative for countries that get in early, he said. Right now, international ammonia prices often hover around US$350 a ton.
"We at the AEA think Japan will pay a little more for green ammonia," he says.
Later this month, scientists, will join industry and government figures at a Melbourne conference exploring potential export opportunities for green ammonia.
"We think Japan is going to be the tip of the iceberg. There might be three other Asian countries lining up for it," Mr Mott said.
Click here to book for the free Tech Futures Talk: Ammonia - Energy of the Future talk taking place on August 15 in Bendigo. Alternatively, call 5444 7113.
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