Joint project SolarFuelNow

  Schema Copyright: © DLR

Efficient control of solar fuel production with DNI Nowcasts


Key Info

Basic Information

01.09.2020 to 31.08.2023
Hydrogen Technologies


Technological research in harnessing solar energy primarily focuses on electricity and heat generation. However, it is also possible to produce fuels such as hydrogen using solar power. Hydrogen is considered a crucial element in achieving climate protection goals, as emphasized by the Hydrogen Roadmap of NRW state. The aim is to transform mobility and industry in the upcoming years by utilizing fuel cells and hydrogen-based systems. With the sun being the Earth's largest energy source, solar hydrogen production is pivotal in attaining these objectives and represents a promising avenue for future research.


Project Goals and Methods

Sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Economics Affairs and Climate Action

The hydrogen production takes place in the solar tower facility located at the German Aerospace Center, called DLR, in Jülich. Hydrogen is generated through a solar chemical process operating at temperatures up to 1400 °C in multiple reactor chambers. The concentrated solar radiation, achieved through a field of heliostats, provides the requisite high energy density by reflecting sunlight into the reactor chambers.

Within the collaborative research project SolarFuelNow, the Institute of Automatic Control is developing a Model Predictive Control, called MPC. The MPC ensures optimal process management and regulation by efficiently distributing solar power among the reactor chambers. Maintaining the target temperatures in each chamber is crucial to avoid substantial efficiency losses and ensure cost-effectiveness. The project faces challenges posed by transient cloud cover, which can result in power reductions or localized overheating. The control system will incorporate a nowcasting system that considers predictions of solar radiation on the heliostat field. These predictions are generated by an advanced cloud camera system, which is also being further developed as part of the project.


Innovations and Perspectives

Successful completion of this research project will pave the way for exploring innovative regenerative methods for producing green hydrogen. This contribution will play a vital role in expanding the industrial utilization of sustainable energy sources. The algorithms developed during the project for modeling and control will be designed with a modular structure, enabling their seamless application to similar systems.

Ultimately, this project aims to deliver an enhanced nowcasting system for solar tower systems and a model-predictive control system for multi-chamber facilities, incorporating cloud prediction capabilities. The outcome will be applicable to large-scale fuel production facilities, marking a significant step forward in sustainable energy generation.

Project partner