Tapping the Sun for renewable hydrogen

During a heatwave in southern Europe in July 2023, temperatures hit a staggering 1,400 °C at a test site in Almería, Spain. This heat, generated at the Plataforma Solar de Almería using mirrors to concentrate sunlight, is part of an effort to create renewable hydrogen—a potential key to reducing reliance on fossil fuels and addressing global warming.

Chemical engineer Souzana Lorentzou and her team at the Centre for Research & Technology Hellas are investigating this method as a means to generate clean energy. Despite hydrogen’s green potential, nearly all of Europe's hydrogen in 2022 was produced using natural gas, releasing significant CO2.

A known technique for producing clean hydrogen is electrolysis, which uses electricity from renewable sources to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Yet, it hasn’t become widespread due to costs, with only 1% of global hydrogen coming from renewable-powered electrolysis.

European researchers are exploring the use of concentrated solar power to produce hydrogen without electricity, simply using heat. Projects like HYDROSOL-beyond, running until the end of 2023, and GH2, until September 2025, are testing these methods, aiming to reduce CO2 emissions significantly.

Though the technology behind these projects is promising, large-scale commercial deployment could still be a decade or two away, requiring further technological advancements and cost reductions. Researchers like Lorentzou and Marcel Boerrigter from the Leitat Technological Center are dedicated to overcoming these challenges, with the potential to contribute substantially to preventing climate change by offering a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels.

EU-funded research is supporting these endeavors, indicating the importance of publicly funded projects in advancing green energy technologies.

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Document Details and Download

Date published
1 September 2023
Journal Magazine
Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine
Publisher (Company, Organisation)
Horizon - The EU Research and Innovation Magazine
Research Project Title
Funding Reference for Project (if applicable)
GA 826379
Companies mentioned (up to 8); separate by Semikolon

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