The Swiss energy company Synhelion recently inaugurated the first industrial plant for the production of solar fuels. The aim is to make the transport sector more sustainable – especially aviation.

The mobility sector is changing due to the ongoing climate change. In the medium term, traditional combustion engines are unlikely to play a role. But electric mobility also has disadvantages. For many, sustainable, synthetic fuels therefore seem to be a solution. The Swiss company Synhelion recently reached a milestone in this area.

On June 20, 2024, the company inaugurated the world's first industrial plant for the production of synthetic fuels using solar energy in Jülich. The plant is called DAWN and shows that the technology for producing solar fuels is ready for large-scale use.

The aim is to decarbonise the transport sector, especially aviation, in the medium term and reduce emissions.

Synhelion: Production of green fuels with solar tower

The plant includes a 20-meter-high solar tower and a mirror field. The tower contains a solar receiver, a thermochemical reactor and a thermal energy storage system. According to the company, this structure should enable cost-efficient production of solar fuels around the clock.

DAWN is the first plant to demonstrate the entire technology from concentrated sunlight to synthetic liquid fuel on an industrial scale. The annual production volume is several thousand liters of fuel. Synhelion wants to produce the first synthetic fuels this year.

The company produces a synthetic crude oil locally, known as Syncrude. Traditional refineries process this into certified fuels. Synhelion thus produces not only sustainable kerosene for aviation, but also gasoline and diesel for road and shipping applications.

First commercial plant planned in Spain

The solar fuels can replace fossil fuels and are fully compatible with the existing global fuel infrastructure. Synhelion plans to build its first commercial plant in Spain from 2025. Ideally, this should produce around 1,000 tons of fuel annually.

Future plants could be significantly larger and offer a higher production capacity. Synhelion aims to achieve an annual production volume of around one million tons of solar fuel within ten years. Then, traditional combustion engines could continue to be on the road in an environmentally friendly way alongside electric vehicles.

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