In this paper, energy and exergy analyses for a 1.2 kWp Nexa PEM fuel cell unit in a solar-based hydrogen production system is undertaken to investigate the performance of the system for different operating conditions using experimental setup and thermodynamic model. From the model results, it is found that there are reductions in energy and exergy efficiencies (about 14%) with increase in cur-rent density. These are consistent with the experimental data for the same operating conditions. A parametric study on the system and its parameters is undertaken to investigate the changes in the efficiencies for variations in temperature, pressure and anode stoichiometry. The energy and exergy efficiencies increase with pressure by 23% and 15%, respectively. No noticeable changes are observed in energy and exergy efficiencies with increase in temperature. The energy and exergy efficiencies decrease with increase in anode stoichiometry by 17% and 14%, respectively. These observations are reported for the given range of current density as 0.047-0.4 A/cm(2). The results and analyses show that the PEM fuel-cell system has lower exergy efficiencies than the corresponding energy efficiencies due to the irreversibilities that are not considered by energy analysis. In comparison with experimental data, the model is accurate in predicting the performance of the proposed fuel-cell system. The parametric and multivariable analyses show that the option of selecting appropriate set of conditions plays a significant role in improving performance of existing fuel-cell systems. (c) 2008 International Association for Hydrogen Energy. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.