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World's first industrial-scale solar fuel plant capable of producing 1,000 tons of fuel annually opens in Germany: 'A turning point for sustainable transportation'

"Our founding dream … is becoming a reality."

"Our founding dream ... is becoming a reality."

Photo Credit: Synhelion

Solar panels are good for more than just electricity. A German firm, Synhelion, has devised a way to use solar power to convert energy into synthetic fuels — and now they're opening the first scalable solar fuel plant.

The plant, which is named "Dawn," had its grand opening on June 20. Not only could Dawn's operations demonstrate that fossil fuels are unnecessary for transport — particularly aviation — but it will also serve as a proof of concept for scaling the solar-to-syncrude process.

The plant aims to demonstrate the technology's potential to remove the dependency on fossil fuels from the transport sector, particularly in aviation.

According to an article from Interesting Engineering, Dawn "consists of a 65-feet (20 meter) high solar tower surrounded by a mirror field to concentrate solar rays. Inside the solar tower, there is a solar receiver with an internal black surface. The surface absorbs heat and it is this heat which is then sent to a thermochemical reactor which then uses it to make synthetic liquid fuels or syngas."

Synhelion, Dawn's parent company, issued a press release that stated they aimed to produce 1 million tons of syncrude annually within 10 years. "Synhelion will produce not only solar kerosene for aviation, but also solar gasoline and solar diesel for road transportation and shipping applications," they explained.

With the worldwide transportation industry still 95% powered by dirty fossil fuels, according to the UN, finding more future-oriented solutions is imperative. The American Public Health Association reported that traffic-related air pollution has been linked to both respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

Fortunately, companies like Synhelion are moving quickly to innovate around the problem. Interesting Engineering also reported on a U.K. startup that is looking to beam space-gathered solar back to Earth. And Synhelion's CEO and co-founder, Dr. Philipp Furler, is feeling optimistic about Dawn's impact.

"The inauguration of Dawn marks the beginning of the era of solar fuels — a turning point for sustainable transportation. Our founding dream of producing renewable fuels from solar energy is becoming a reality," he said in the press release.

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