The Engineer – Synhelion kicks off first solar fuel plant.

By Oliver Townsend Jun 24, 2024
The Engineer - Synhelion inaugurates first industrial solar fuel plant.jpegOrginal image from:

Synhelion, a spinout from ETH Zurich, has recently inaugurated the world’s first industrial-scale solar fuels plant, marking a significant milestone in the realm of sustainable transportation. Located in Jülich, the plant named DAWN utilizes sunlight to produce synthetic fuels, including syngas and synthetic liquid fuels, through a thermochemical process. This innovative plant features a 20-meter-high solar tower surrounded by mirrors to concentrate solar rays and enable around-the-clock production of solar fuels.

The Inauguration of DAWN

The inauguration of DAWN signifies the fruition of Synhelion’s founding dream to produce renewable fuels from solar energy. Dr. Philipp Furler, the CEO and co-founder of Synhelion, expressed his pride in the team and the pioneers who made this groundbreaking achievement possible. The plant is expected to produce several thousand liters of synthetic crude oil per year, with production set to begin in 2024. The syncrude will then be processed into synthetic kerosene, gasoline, or diesel for various modes of transport.

Synhelion’s Future Plans

Synhelion is already looking towards the future, with plans to build its first commercial plant in Spain by 2025. This plant is projected to produce around 1,000 tons of fuel annually, with an ambitious goal of reaching one million tons per year within a decade. Such a scale of production could have a significant impact on decarbonizing sectors like aviation, but it would require substantial investments in solar plants globally.

The Role of Solar Fuels in Aviation

Heike Birlenbach, the chief commercial officer of Swiss International Air Lines, emphasized the importance of sustainable aviation fuels in achieving CO2 targets in the aviation industry. As a strategic partner of Synhelion, Birlenbach highlighted the significance of DAWN’s inauguration in advancing the market introduction of solar fuels. Synhelion’s innovative approach to producing solar fuels has garnered support from Lufthansa Group and SWISS, further underscoring the potential impact of this technology on the aviation sector.


The inauguration of the first industrial solar fuel plant by Synhelion represents a pivotal moment in the transition towards sustainable transportation. By harnessing solar energy to produce synthetic fuels, Synhelion is leading the way in innovative solutions for decarbonizing the transport sector. The future expansion of solar fuel production holds promise for reducing carbon emissions and advancing the adoption of renewable energy sources on a global scale.

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