Huge Solar Power in the Sahara Project Moving Forward

desertec image

image: Desertec

Utilizing the vast solar power potential of the Sahara has been a twinkle in the eye of many a European politician for a while now. Even though the logistics of building huge solar power arrays in the desert and then transmitting that electricity back across the Mediterranean isn't exactly simple, to say the least. Well, a consortium of German companies wants to turn that dream into reality and is raising money to make it happen:AFP reports that about 20 companies will band together and attempt to raise €400 billion ($554 billion) to finance the Desertec project.

The plan is place solar power arrays in various countries in the region, concentrating on those which are most politically stable. Taken together all the individual solar power plants of Desetec could generate about 15% of Europe's electricity. But probably not for some time; the first electricity won't be transmitted until perhaps 2019.

Money is Only Part of the Problem
Keep in mind that there's plenty that could derail a plan of this scope:

Risk perception in attracting investment is one, even though from an insurance perspective North Africa is less risky than other areas of the world consistently receiving investments in the energy projects.

Regulatory hurdles in North Africa are another. In the region most energy projects have a significant degree of state involvement, which undoubtedly adds a layer of complexity and hassle.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is actually getting the electricity back to Europe, though not from a technical perspective. Speaking last March in Copenhagen, Anthony Patt of the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis pointed out that Europe's electricity distribution system is really a collection of 27 different systems. Until these are more fully integrated, distributing the Sahara's electricity could be difficult.

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