By Sean Nugent for the Otago Daily Times
Queenstown could produce hydrogen as a vehicle fuel that could change the face of transport in New Zealand.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council yesterday released the findings of a report it commissioned to assess potential research and development opportunities for the area.
The report, written by Sapere Research Group, identified hydrogen production as a potential industry for the district.
It said the district's potential to be used ''as a test bed for hydrogen economy technologies'' was high, due to its unique geography, local expertise, globally recognised branding, as well as being a strong step to produce a resource with little to no emissions.
The large tourism industry meant there were numerous heavy transport vehicles, such as buses, travelling significant distances. These could run on hydrogen, a potentially ''superior fuel'' to battery electric, hybrid or biofuels, the report said.
The council's economic development manager, Peter Harris, said the report forms part of a joint search by the council and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for opportunities that can help diversify the local economy.
''Based on this report, hydrogen looks like it would have the most potential," Mr Harris said.
''It could be made using hydro-electricity, solar or wind, and would be used as a zero emission fuel for buses, trucks, cars and vessels."
Last September, the New Zealand Hydrogen Association was formed, with an aim of decarbonising New Zealand's energy needs and reducing the reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Chief executive Linda Wright said the southern South Island was the ''ideal place'' to make and test hydrogen as a way to reduce the emissions from tourism and transport industries.
One of the association's founding members was the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds, and its managing director Tom Elworthy reiterated Dr Wright's comments.
''Obviously we've got access to a lot of renewable energy and there's actually surplus generation capacity during the night time when there's not a substantial load... whenever there's some surplus capacity lying around you can generate hydrogen," Mr Elworthy said.
''The development of hydrogen trucks and cars is going to come really quickly. It's starting to do so globally.
''The ability for us to be able to access hydrogen locally and have a network of hydrogen stations around the region will really put us on the map as a place to come and test hydrogen cars, not just in winter, but all year round because of the topography that we have.
"We've got mountains, hills, plains, highways, all within a really small area.''
Mr Elworthy said using the renewable energy the country already had was a better option than building power stations to support fully electric transport.
- This story originally appeared in the Otago Daily Times