Massive Saharan Solar Project Could Power $71 Billion EU Supergrid

sahara desert photo

Image from bachmont

Sometimes called the Saudi Arabia of solar energy, the Sahara could soon be home to dozens of huge solar farms under a new EU supergrid initiative to supply the continent's electricity needs with renewable energy. The Guardian's Alok Jha reports that the plan, which would cost around $71 billion (€45 billion) and take several decades to finish, would let all EU countries share electricity from wind, geothermal and solar energy.

Solar initiative already has crucial political backing
It has already gained a crucial measure of political support, with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who just helped establish the Mediterranean Union to work with countries in north Africa and the Mediterranean region, recently giving it the thumbs-up.

mojave desert solar panels photo

Image from Shayan
Building a massive, continent-wide DC supergrid
Each farm would generate between 50 and 200 megawatts of power, which would be fed thousands of miles through high voltage DC transmission lines to EU states. DC lines are preferable to AC lines in this case, because they lose a lot less energy over long distances.

It makes more sense to build the panels in north Africa rather than Europe, the European Commission Institute for Energy's Arnulf Jaeger-Walden explained, because the sunlight there is much more intense. He estimates that PV panels installed in Sahara could produce up to 3 times as much electricity. The initiative could cost up to $2 billion a year every year until 2050, according Jaeger-Walden.

Solar thermal generators could provide electricity and freshwater
This EU supergrid proposal is reminiscent of Desertec, a solar scheme to provide up to one sixth of the EU's energy needs which was unveiled late last year by Jordan's Prince Hassan bin Talal. While less ambitious, I think the European Commission would do well to consider using solar thermal generators, instead of conventional PV panels, since they could also be used as desalination facilities. Concentrating solar power (CSP) also seems like a much more cost-effective solution, especially on the scale that the farms will be built.

Via ::The Guardian: £37bn plan to power EU with the Saharan sun (news website)

More about huge solar projects
::Powering 20,000 Homes: The World's Largest PV Solar Farm Opens
::Largest Solar Power Plant In the United States Planned for Florida
::Turning Big Box Stores into Solar Power Plants in California

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