Sunlight + air = fuel

August 2019—This sounds like sci-fi but it’s real. Scientists have figured out how to make fuel from air using solar panels.

"This plant proves that carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels can be made from sunlight and air under real field conditions. The thermochemical process utilizes the entire solar spectrum and proceeds at high temperatures, enabling fast reactions and high efficiency," said Aldo Steinfeld, Professor of Renewable Energy Carriers at ETH Zurich, and head of the research group that developed the technology.

A solar plant the size of a kilometer can generate 20,000 liters of kerosine so it isn’t going to replace gasoline.

"Theoretically, a plant the size of Switzerland -- or a third of the Californian Mojave Desert -- could cover the kerosene needs of the entire aviation industry. Our goal for the future is to efficiently produce sustainable fuels with our technology and thereby mitigate global CO2 emissions."

But we need to start worrying about all these different groups thinking they can cover the Sahara or Mojave in solar panels. There’s some double-counting going on and those deserts aren’t actually wastelands, devoid of life.