SOLETAIR - Combining Efforts for Renewable Energy Technologies

Johanna Kihlman/13.04.2017/article

The SOLETAIR project combines expertise of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in the field of renewable energy technologies.

The SOLETAIR project combines expertise of VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in the field of renewable energy technologies. Our aim is to study the integration of solar photovoltaic electricity, electrolysis, direct air capture and synthesis for the production of synthetic natural gas, gasoline, diesel and chemicals. In the future, the combination of these technologies can be used to produce 100% renewable products from the sun and air.

SOLETAIR started within a TEKES strategic research project, Neo-Carbon Energy, as a co-operation between the LUT and VTT research groups. Both partners were participating in the Neo-Carbon Energy work package for experimental studies on electrolysis, CO2 separation, CO2 methanation and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis. From this collaboration emerged an idea to combine the technologies into a Power-to-X (PtX) concept suitable for the Finnish industry, leading to the formation of SOLETAIR project proposal for TEKES.

Similar PtX projects as SOLETAIR are currently going on in the Europe, especially in Germany. However, the focus of the SOLETAIR project was from the first drafts on to demonstrate the integration of the renewable energy technologies for sustainable future in a way that is also beneficial for the Finnish industry.

LUT solar PV plant was decided to build in 2012. The target was 220 kWp solar PV plant, which was then the biggest in Finland. The first part of the solar power plant was taken into use at the end of 2013. Until now, LUT has 206.5 kWp of solar PV power connected to the grid. The solar power plant consists of different installations, such as carport, flat roof, wall, and two types of tracking systems. Electrolysis research started in Neo-Carbon Energy project. The research is concentrated into power electronics and control, in which LUT has strong background.

The development work for the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis reactor technology and syngas utilization began at VTT already 30 years ago. Later, both CO2 separation and CO2 methanation research started in Neo-Carbon Energy project. Also, VTT has invested into catalytic reactor R&D and renewable energy technologies for several decades. The collaboration with Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and its spin-off company IneraTec GmbH was initially started as joint project proposals about five years ago. Today, VTT and IneraTec work closely together for promoting renewable energy technologies.

In the SOLETAIR project, the publicly funded strategic research started in the Neo-Carbon Energy project has been refined to complete process concept for renewable energy technologies. This has been made possible by the interdisciplinary collaboration between VTT and LUT, and by the strong trust in the sustainable future.

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