A giant step has been made in what will be the world’s largest renewable energy project. While previously just a grand vision for the production of clean energy in the Saharan desert, the project now has a core group of backers and a signed agreement between 12 companies wanting to move forward with the $555 billion renewable energy belt. The 12 collaborators signed articles of association last week for the DESERTEC Industrial Initiative (DII), which will work to bring more companies and groups on board as well as focus on regulations and conditions to get the project successfully completed and generating pure power from the sun.
The DESERTEC Foundation vision is to install 100 GW of solar power throughout Northern Africa, with the goal of supplying 15% of Europe’s energy demand with clean renewable power. So far a number of blue chip and powerful companies have signed on to be part of the project, including ABB, ABENGOA Solar, Cevital, DESERTEC Foundation, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE, SCHOTT Solar, and Siemens. The project will link multiple solar concentrating facilities around coastal North Africa and transmit most of the renewable energy through high-voltage DC lines to Europe. Additionally, desalination plants will be coupled with the solar concentrating plants to bring fresh water to people in Africa.
Although still many years out from completion, the signed agreement between the founding partners will help bring cohesion and a unified force to the project. A considerable amount of work must still be done to bring this to reality, and more support must be garnered from both European agencies and companies along with organizations from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region. Questions regarding energy security, fairness, social justice, water and solar rights, as well as compensation must be dealt with along the way.
New DESERTEC CEO van Son says, “Now the time has come to turn this vision into reality. That implies intensive cooperation with many parties and cultures to create a sound basis for feasible investments into renewable energy technologies and interconnected grids. The DII will primarily focus on the economic, technical and regulatory conditions that must be fulfilled for successful project implementation.”