System and Technoeconomic Analysis of Solar Thermochemical Hydrogen Production

Zhiwen Ma, Patrick Davenport, Genevieve Saur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus Citations


Hydrogen is a promising energy carrier that can be obtained from various feedstocks using renewable energy sources. Direct solar thermochemical hydrogen (STCH) production by water splitting can utilize the full spectrum of solar radiation and has the potential to achieve high solar energy conversion efficiencies. Currently STCH research areas focus on material discovery. This paper evaluates the performance of various STCH materials in the context of a system platform to assess techno-economic benefits and gaps in the path to STCH scale-up. To analyze the hydrogen production cost, a concentrating solar thermal (CST) system is introduced as a platform for integrating STCH materials and accommodating generalized thermochemical processes. The thermochemical process is based on a two-step STCH cycle using metal oxide that consists of a high temperature step for metal oxide reduction, followed by an oxidation step for water splitting at a lower temperature. A preferred configuration is to have the high temperature step occurring in a directly irradiated solar receiver reactor. To this end, we conceptualized a receiver design and associated solar field layout and investigated STCH operational boundaries, component costs and sensitivity parameters on the $2/kgH2 goal of hydrogen production. The study explored system-related variables and factors associated with scaling up. The CST platform allows more comprehensive studies that encompass aspects of STCH materials and systems such as cost, hydrogen productivity and replacement frequency, alongside other system components like heliostat field, tower, and potential receiver costs.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)294-308
Number of pages15
JournalRenewable Energy
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-77607


  • H2A analysis
  • Hydrogen production
  • Solar receiver
  • Solar thermochemical hydrogen production
  • Technoeconomic analysis
  • Water splitting


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