Analysis of photon-driven solar-to-hydrogen production methods in the Netherlands

L.S.F. Frowijn, Wilfried van Sark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Hydrogen is deemed necessary for the realization of a sustainable society, especially when renewable energy is used to generate hydrogen. As most of the photon-driven hydrogen production methods are not commercially available yet, this study has investigated the techno-economic and overall performance of four different solar-to-hydrogen methods and photovoltaics-based electrolysis methods in the Netherlands. It was found that the photovoltaics-based electrolysis is the cheapest option with production cost of 9.31 $/kgH2. Production cost based on photo-catalytic water splitting, direct bio-photolysis, and photoelectrochemical water splitting are found to be 18.32 $/kgH2, 18.45 $/kgH2, and 18.98 $/kgH2, respectively. These costs are expected to drop significantly in the future. Direct bio-photolysis (potential cost of 3.10 $/kgH2) and photo-catalytic water splitting (3.12 $/kgH2) may become cheaper than photovoltaics-based electrolysis. Based on preferences of three fictional technology investors, i.e. a short-term, a green and a visionary investor, the overall performance of these methods are determined. Photovoltaics-based electrolysis is the most ideal option, with photoelectrochemical water splitting a complementary option. While photovoltaics-based electrolysis has an advantage on the short-term because it is a non-integrated energy system, on the long-term this might lead to relatively higher cost and performance limitations. Photochemical water splitting are integrated energy systems and have an advantage on the long-term because they need a relatively low theoretical overpotential and benefit from increasing temperatures. Both methods show performance improvements by the use of quantum dots. Bio-photolysis can be self-sustaining and can use wastewater to produce hydrogen but sudden temperature changes could lead to performance decrease.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101631
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalSustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Solar-to-hydrogen
  • Hydrogen production
  • PV-electrolysis
  • Photochemical water splitting
  • Bio-photolysis
  • Techno-economic analysis


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