Solar Energy in the Sahara to Power Europe Gains Support

Cracked Sand in the Sahara Desert photo

photo: Getty Images

We’ve reported on the idea to use large solar power plants in the Sahara to power Europe a number of times. In a nutshell, the idea is that North Africa has so much solar potential that if enough solar power plants (either solar photovoltaic or solar thermal) were built there, and an efficient enough transmission infrastructure were built, the region could generate enough electricity to meet all of Europe and the Mediterranean’s needs. It’s an undeniably ambitious plan, but one which is increasingly gaining political support.
European Commission’s Institute for Energy is Enthusiastic
In addition to support from Gordon Brown and Nicholas Sarkozy expressing support, the European commission’s Institute for Energy is enthusiastic about the potential of North African solar. Quoted in The Guardian, the Institute for Energy’s Amulf Jaeger-Walden explained how connecting North Africa solar to a grid of high-voltage direct current transmission lines, and backing it up with hydro power could easily meet Europe’s needs:

If you look at solar radiation, then the Mediterranean region is a very favorable one. If you connect the grid to hydro power, you’ve got that as a backup battery, and in addition there’s wind. It’s not a single source that’s providing the energy but a combination of the different renewable energies.

According to Jaeger-Walden, capturing a mere 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and Middle East could power the entirety of Europe.

Large Investment in Solar, But a Fraction of Overall Needed Energy Investment
Sound’s simple, but it’s an admittedly large endeavor. Jaeger-Walden estimates that building the transmission capacity alone could cost up to £1 billion a year, every year, until 2050. Overall, a £360 billion investment could bring 100 GW of clean electricity to Europe. If that seems to big to swallow, Jaeger-Walden points out that, that figure is just a fraction of the £22.5 trillion that the IEA says is needed to in worldwide energy investment.

So nothing concrete to advance this concept, but the more it keeps getting put on the public awareness radar, the more chance for support this scheme may receive.

via :: The Guardian
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