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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

48 - Solar thermal routes to fuel

from Part 6 - Energy storage, high-penetration renewables, and grid stabilization

Summary

Focus

The conversion of solar energy to alternative fuels is becoming a vital need in view of the current oil prices, the possible ecological damage associated with oil drills, especially off-shore, and the global distribution of oil reserves. There are several routes by which to convert solar energy to fuels, such as electrochemical, photochemical, photobiological, and the thermochemical route, the last of which is the focus of this chapter. This route involves using solar heat at high temperatures to operate endothermic thermochemical processes. It offers some intriguing thermodynamic advantages, with direct economic implications. It is also an attractive method of storage for solar energy in chemical form. An important vector of this route is the production of hydrogen, a potentially clean alternative to fossil fuels, especially for use in the transportation sector.

Synopsis

There is a pressing need to develop advanced energy technologies to address the global challenges of clean energy, climate change, and sustainable development. The conversion of solar energy to fuels can basically be done through three routes, separately or in combination: the electrochemical route, which uses solar electricity; the photochemical/photobiological route, which makes direct use of solar photons; and the thermochemical route, which utilizes solar heat, usually at high temperatures, for endothermic processes.

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