World’s first industrial-scale solar fuel plant

About DAWN

DAWN is the world’s first industrial-scale solar fuel plant. With this plant, Synhelion aims to demonstrate the entire Sun-to-Liquid process on an industrial scale, from concentrating sunlight to producing synthetic liquid fuel.

Located in Jülich, Germany, DAWN will be the first industrial-scale demonstration plant to integrate all the innovations developed by Synhelion for the production of solar fuels: heliostat field, solar receiver, thermochemical reactor, and thermal energy storage. DAWN will produce several thousand liters of solar fuel per year. A plant of the same size could yield about 150’000 liters of fuel annually if it was placed in a sunny location.

The commissioning of DAWN is scheduled for 2023/2024. The fuels produced will be used to demonstrate various possible use cases. For example, SWISS will be the first airline to fly on Synhelion’s solar kerosene.

With DAWN, Synhelion is laying the foundation for the industrial production of solar fuels. The demonstration plant will serve as a test bench and model for future commercial plants, which will exceed DAWN’s size and offer significantly higher production volumes. By 2025, Synhelion plans to commission the first commercial solar fuel plant in Spain. Check out our scale-up roadmap.

Main specifications

Total mirror surface area: 1’500 m2

Our precise control technology focuses the mirrors (heliostats) to minimize optical losses and optimize the use of space and material resources, achieving the lowest cost per reflector area. The heliostats are slightly curved to increase solar concentration and are specially designed to be coupled with our solar receiver.

Solar input power: 600 kW

The mirror field reflects the solar radiation and concentrates it 1000 times, yielding a nominal solar input power of 600 kW. Inside the receiver, the concentrated solar radiation is turned into process heat that drives the thermochemical processes.

Tower height: 20 meters

The tower houses three of Synhelion’s key innovations: At the top of the tower, the solar receiver turns the concentrated sunlight into process heat, which is delivered to the thermochemical reactor and the thermal energy storage.

Financed by Synhelion + EUR 3.92 M from BMWK

DAWN is mainly financed by Synhelion and is also supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) with EUR 3.92 million within the SolarFuels research project.

Brainergy Park Jülich, Germany

DAWN is currently being built at Brainergy Park Jülich in Germany. Even though Germany does not offer ideal conditions to produce solar fuels commercially, Jülich provides ideal logistic conditions to rapidly build DAWN. On a sunny day, the radiation intensity is sufficient to produce solar fuels.

Customers: Swiss International Air Lines and other key customers

The fuels produced with DAWN will be delivered to Synhelion’s key customers to demonstrate how solar fuels can decarbonize various transportation sectors. Swiss International Air Lines will be the first airline to fly with our solar jet fuel.

How it works

A mirror field tracks the path of the sun, reflecting the solar radiation and concentrating it onto the receiver on the solar tower. Here, the solar energy is converted into high-temperature process heat of over 1’000°C. This heat is fed to the reactor, together with methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) of biowaste origin from a local paper mill, as well as water (H2O), and drives the thermochemical reaction in the reactor to produce syngas, a mixture of H2 and CO. The syngas is then processed by standard gas-to-liquid technology into solar fuels. The integrated thermal energy storage enables round-the-clock fuel production.

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The road that led to DAWN

Click through the slideshow below to learn about the most important milestones that led to the construction of DAWN, the world’s first industrial-scale solar fuel plant.

  • 2014: Proof of concept

    After decades of top research at ETH Zurich, we produced the world’s first solar jet fuel from H2O and CO2 in the lab, proving that the Sun-to-Liquid technology not only works on paper but also in real life.

  • 2019: Small-scale demonstration

    We then demonstrated the Sun-to-Liquid technology under real field conditions in the centre of Zurich, Switzerland. The solar mini-refinery at ETH Zurich produced the world’s first carbon-neutral fuel from ambient air and sunlight.

  • 2019: Medium-scale demonstration

    In the same year, the SUN-to-LIQUID project produced solar jet fuel at the IMDEA Energy solar concentrating plant in Madrid (ES) within the framework of the EU Horizon 2020 program.

  • 2022: Syngas production on industrial scale

    In 2022, Synhelion produced the world’s first solar syngas on an industrial scale at the DLR solar tower in Jülich (DE), reaching the last decisive technological milestone to start the industrial production of solar fuels.

  • 2022: Synhelion starts construction of DAWN

    With the groundbreaking ceremony, we mark the start of construction work on DAWN – the world’s first industrial plant to produce synthetic fuels using solar heat. The facility will be the first to demonstrate the entire process from concentrating sunlight to producing synthetic liquid fuel on an industrial scale.