India must begin to actively embrace the potential of solar fuels as a clean alternative fuel source — and an export.
Experts have developed techniques to convert sunlight into “solar fuels.” The process involves exposing water molecules to sunlight to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and then combining the hydrogen with carbon dioxide to create liquid fuels. The generated hydrogen can also be condensed (under pressure at very low temperatures) into liquid hydrocarbon fuels (LH2), simple hydrogen gas, and metal hydride, or converted to methanol.
Solar energy is a free source of non-polluting renewable energy that is sustainable and totally inexhaustible.
Liquefied hydrogen can be used in much the same way as gasoline and diesel, or it can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity. Solar fuels would enable solar energy captured during the day to be stored, transported, and used when the sun’s not shining.
Bill Gates recently launched Breakthrough Ventures, a $1 billion fund to invest in scientific discoveries that have the potential to deliver cheap and reliable clean energy to the world. Gates believes solar fuels can be an “energy miracle,” as it would help overcome challenges to renewable energy adoption while producing dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
India is blessed with unlimited amounts of sun and has an enormous capacity to generate renewable energy compared to other countries. Solar fuels have the potential to turn India into a renewable energy superpower. Solar fuel could be the key to meeting future demands for sustainable energy, with emerging technologies enabling us to harness and convert sunshine into an array of useable fuels.
This is a great opportunity for India to create a solar industry which is not limited to the scale of its electricity network, but allows exporting their sunshine around the world.