An alliance of industry, academic and government organizations has formed to commercialize technologies that will use concentrated solar energy to convert waste carbon dioxide into diesel fuel.

The group includes Sandia National Laboratories, Renewable Energy Institute International, Pacific Renewable Fuels, Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne, Quanta Services, Desert Research Institute and Clean Energy Systems. In addition, other partners have signed on to advance work on the first round of commercial plants. The team has received a first phase of funding.

The solar-reforming technology platform will be co-located next to industrial facilities that have waste CO2 streams such as coal power plants, natural gas processing facilities, ethanol plants, cement production facilities and other stationary sources of CO2.

Total CO2 emissions in the United States have increased 17 percent from 1990 levels and, left unchecked, are expected to grow at about one percent annually. To address the challenge of climate change, the United States has set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

 “The alliance team members believe that the best way to accomplish CO2 reduction goals is to commercialize platforms that will utilize CO2 as a carbon feedstock for the production of valuable products, such as diesel fuel,” says Dennis Schuetzle, president of the Renewable Energy Institute.

Close to 60 billion gallons of diesel fuel are used in the United States every year, much of which is derived from imported oil. Domestic production of diesel fuel will help the United States improve energy security while utilizing waste carbon dioxide.

Currently, a solar reforming system is being demonstrated in Sacramento, Calif., and demonstrations will continue both at Sandia’s facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and at a power plant site in Bakersfield, Calif. Planning for the first round of commercial plants is under way at several U.S. locations, and deployment of the first commercial plants could begin in 2013.