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In November 2022, the Horizon Europe project "Dispatchable concentrated Solar-to-X energy solution for high penetration of renewable energy" - or SOLARX for short - started. The main objective of the three-year project is to demonstrate on a laboratory scale the technical, economic and social relevance of the efficient synergistic generation of heat, electricity and hydrogen from solar energy in a single plant. In addition to the Freiburg-based Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, the consortium consists of companies, technology centers, industrial partners and universities from across Europe: HyGear (Netherlands), Acciona Industrial (Spain), EMD International (Denmark), Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (Denmark), Laboratoire Nanotechnologies et Nanosystèmes de la Université de Sherbrooke (CNRS, France/Canada) and accelopment Schweiz AG (Switzerland).

Seeking the next generation of renewable energy technologies

The project is one of 11 proposals selected by the European Union to define the next generation of renewable energy technologies that will enable a faster transition to an EU economy with zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. "SOLARX not only addresses the challenges related to solar resource characteristics and technological challenges, but also explores ways to manage the entire innovation process along the entire value chain, incorporating insights from the social sciences and humanities," said project coordinator Prof. Jérôme Barrau of the University of Lleida.

Decentralized and adaptable

In a scenario where the share of fluctuating renewable energy sources is constantly growing, their integration into current energy infrastructures is considered difficult, and these structures are in turn considered inefficient. Therefore, generating carbon neutral and highly efficient energy adapted to local needs would be tantamount to a breakthrough. To get there, SOLARX integrates three highly concentrated solar technologies (electricity, thermal energy for storage and/or industry, and green hydrogen and syngas, respectively) and smart resource management based on artificial intelligence to generate different energy vectors. This is done either directly with high efficiency or via storage stages to maximize services to distribution grids and/or revenues.

Within the project, Fraunhofer ISE is responsible for the work package "Solar management and control strategies", i.e., the provision of an intelligent solar resource management system to match generation and energy demand.