Flying with fuel from solar energy made in NRW? What sounds like a futuristic vision could soon become reality: At the beginning of September, Synhelion, a spin-off of ETH Zurich, began construction of an innovative production plant for solar fuels at Brainergy Park in Jülich.
The centerpiece of "DAWN" – as the facility is called – will be a 20-meter-high tower. It is surrounded by a 1,500 square meter field of mirrors that capture sunlight and direct it in concentrated form to a receiver in the tower. A thermochemical reactor uses this energy to convert water and carbon (for example, from CO2 in the atmosphere or methane from biogas plants) into sustainable kerosene and gasoline. The demonstration plant will also include an energy storage system so that "DAWN" can produce around the clock. According to Synhelion, several thousand liters of fuel can be produced annually in this way.
The procedure has already been tested: Synhelion has carried out successful tests at the solar tower of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Brainergy Park. It is therefore no coincidence that the site in NRW was chosen: Jülich not only offers optimal logistical conditions for the project, but is also home to Synhelion Germany and the project partners DLR and the Solar Institute Jülich of Aachen University of Applied Sciences.
"DAWN" is to be used primarily for research and development purposes. This is because larger commercial plants using the technology are particularly worthwhile in sunny regions. Synhelion thus wants to take a major step toward its goal of building up a production capacity of 875 million liters of fuel per year by 2030. There is already demand for solar kerosene: Swiss was the first airline to announce its intention to use the sustainable alternative.