The fact has been known for years: harvesting the energy provided by the sun to a tiny fraction of the Earth could supply all the energy Humankind needs without greenhouse gases emissions or pollution due to operation.
This week many blogs and websites published articles on Desertec, a foundation that would like to install many concentrated solar thermal plants in the Sahara desert to provide a fraction of the electricity Europe needs.
But many problems will have to be solved : funding the project, transmitting the electricity through the desert and the Mediterranean sea and so on.
Concerning the financing of the project, the problem could be solved as a consortium of 20 German companies plan to raise no less than 400 billion euros ($554 billion).
To Solve Climate, the area installed with concentrated solar thermal plants would be 6,500 square miles, or around 17,000 square kilometers. This is indeed a lot of space…
Then transmitting the electricity would be an other problem altogether as a lot of energy losses would occur with so long distances. Indeed, we are talking about thousands of kilometers or miles.
This brings me to another problem I have with the project: the lines would be like pipelines waiting for to be blown up by extremists of all kindS. They also could be interrupted by countries when political troubles arise between nations.
Moreover, to TreeHugger, the grids and electricity systems vary within all the 27 members of the European Union. This would be another problem that would have to be solved.
But what if all Mediterranean countries could benefit from this project ? This would be a fantastic project for the Union for the Mediterranean…
This project reminds me by its scale the huge wind energy project in the North Sea which could provide more energy that the Middle East does with its oil.
My conclusion: even if this seems to be totally surrealistic by its scale and the amounts of difficulties that could arise at any time and doom the project, I look forward to reading from them and wish them success.
In any case, be sure that I will keep you posted !
4 thoughts on “Is Desertec a sound idea ?”
While I agree with you that there are many challenges with Desertec or solar energy from desert regions sent to the European market, I would like to add a ray of hope. Nothing you mentioned would be a deal breaker if indeed cooperation would prevail. Wow… who would have ever thought the countries of Europe would join together, maybe it is time for North African countries to form a Union, NAU, or as you mentioned a Union of the Mediterranean.
In this world of growing energy demands and environmental strains, is it not a Vision that leads people to succeed? A Vision put a man on the moon, a Vision can provide energy from the desert. Now is the time to focus on ‘We can do it’ and avoid the pitfalls of ‘why we cannot’!
Wind turbines in the North Sea, Energy from the desert, it is a summation of all resources that will deliver our current and future needs.
My hope is that Desertec is a catalyst for positive change.
A “Lets get it done!” attitude.
Agreed, agreed, agreed ! 🙂
What we lack is indeed a Vision. The problem is that a Vision is difficult to share. There are many examples of this in History.
My article was voluntarily dark. The idea is great of course, but for instance I believe the money would be better invested in a smaller project to bring electricity to North African countries and develop energy efficiency in Europe.
Other people believe that concentrated solar could be built in Europe directly, thus avoiding the whole problem of transmitting the electricity.
But that doesn’t change my conclusion: I wish the Desertec team success. If it can be done, it would be great.
For more on solar in deserts, you may refer to a previous article:
A quarter of global electricity can be provided by solar thermal by 2050
In any case, many thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog. I hope to read you again ! Meanwhile, enjoy your weekend ! 🙂
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