Ambitious Supergrid Project to Bring African Solar Power to Europe Runs Into Trouble
Two Continents Linked by Solar PowerWe've probably all seen maps that show the areas that would be required to power either Europe, or America, or the whole world, with solar power. Well, some people looked at those and decided to try to turn that dream into a reality. The Desertec Foundation is trying to build up the support for an inter-continental supergrid that would bring solar power from North-Africa, where there's more than enough sun, to Europe, where there's high demand for clean energy.
But building this thing wouldn't be a weekend project. Costs are estimated at 400 billion Euros, and it would take decade to build all the solar thermal plants and the high-voltage DC transmission lines. The end goal would be to produce about 125 gigawatts of clean energy by 2050
Serious Bump in the RoadUnfortunately for the ambitious project, they are losing support from some key backers. Last month Siemens said it was out, and now it is Bosch's turn to say "goodbye":
"The economic conditions (do) not allow a continuation of its membership," spokeswoman for Bosch told Reuters late on Monday, confirming Financial Times Deutschland's report due to be published on Tuesday.
She said Bosch would no longer be a member by the end of this year.
On the political front, Spain's government has refused to commit to a solar power plant that would be built in Morocco, one of the first concrete steps forward for Desertec. The Spanish government is obviously dealing with lots of economic and social problems at home, and has trouble justifying the money that would need to be spent on the project. It probably doesn't help that North-African isn't currently the most politically stable place, so spending billions on long-term infrastructure projects is a hard sell.
Is this the end of Desertec?Will the project be scaled back or modified, or be stillborn? It's hard to say, but losing Siemens and Bosch, two huge engineering firms, and seeing governmental support waver certainly will make things very difficult. But let's not forget that this is a long-term project and that maybe when the world economy recovers we'll see a renewed appetite for it.
In the meantime, Europe should keep investing into clean energy. Costs have come down tremendously in the past few decades, and there are great innovations in the R&D pipeline. If we keep going a while longer, we'll reap the benefits of all the seeds that have been planted so far.