Bridgette Meinhold

$555 Billion Sahara Solar Energy Belt Takes Giant Step Forward

by , 11/03/09
filed under: Solar Power

solar energy, solar power, africa, northern africa, solar concentrating facility, desertec renewable energy project

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.”

+ DESERTEC Foundation

Via Cleantechnica

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12 Comments

  1. David CountryWide Water June 9, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    We will all be hoping this project becomes reality .

  2. Lab Creates 3 Layered S... June 30, 2010 at 9:30 am

    [...] which validates the possibility that they could be commercialized. We bet the people over at Desertec are drooling over this invention as they’d need even less space in the Sahara to power the [...]

  3. trysts March 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Water Supplies (not the Nile again?), Left over Carbon Tracks, Infrastructure, Geo-Political considerations, Neo-Political Corporate Occupations, existent resource fields for host countries, historical/archeological considerations, uncleared mine fields, security and exposure of sites, effects of climate and climate change on apparatus……………put the whole project n sun filled arid areas in Europe I say, and leave the last purest environments on earth free from greed and the political manipulation of the West: THE GREAT SAND SEAS of the SAHARA. Might is not always right….the whole thing sounds like a commercial plunder, when we can do it ourselves on our own teritories.

  4. marisa rehana mann November 13, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    I am an artist working in the field of sustainable development and recently extrapolated the Desertec concept for use in Pakistan, where I was born, for a project by “Other Asias”,called Redo Pakistan.It can be seen on my blog;wildlife & the environment art or http://marisamann.wordpress.com/ where my third item deals with how the concept could re generate this country and indeed any that have sand sea and sun. Desertec is a concept I visualised 30 years ago reading a Larry Niven book on light sail travel in space. This for me brought images of parts of the Sahara covered in aluminium foil chanelling in the heat of the sun.
    The advantages will be great for North Africa who should be the main beneficiaries of the development. They should receive cheap energy, water and the possibility of growing crops under the mirrors. Unlike nuclear power stations ,maintenance and eventual decommissioning will be low.North Africans will be able to develop their countries and we can buy power along with the Middle East where already Abu Dhabi is planning a Solar City at Masadar.Our sad government in Britain have short sightedly just announced plans for loads more nuclear power stations. They will be obsolete and the then government will say, just as this government sold its gold at rock bottom prices, so also did it spend the rest of energy budgets on these futile developments!
    Now is an opportunity for everyone to read up about CSP with Desertec and ask their M.P.’s why we are not putting our efforts to this remarkable and obvious solution to energy and development needs.Although this project is for North Africa with benefits sold to Europe and the Middle East, there is no reason why organisations such as the World bank could not help finance it for the rest of Africa. Also, with a unified grid ,other renewables can be fed into this and stored in melted salts.My blog details other technologies and the reason we need this is for industry,local projects are good for communities ,but this ,unlike dams built by massive projects on earthquake faults, can take over and supply our energy needs in developed and developing countries.
    We only have to look up and see what we have been provided with and use our brains to get it working!

  5. Eletruk November 9, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    High voltage DC transmission? Really? I thought the reason everybody uses high voltage AC is due to losses on DC systems. It’s why we haven’t used DC in a hundred years. However, if they are planning on using superconductors, then I guess the losses are minimized. I just have always wondered if the energy used to keep superconductors at their operating temperature is low enough to offset the reduction in losses for using them. Seems like it takes a lot of energy to create liquid nitrogen (or helium – dpepends on the materials).

  6. ds November 7, 2009 at 7:23 am

    it can only be built in africa because only with thouse sun hours
    and intensity it is economically viable. no company is putting money in a project where they loose it. well – not intentionally anyway.
    before long african nations will do the same – rather than shoveling money into global financial markets.
    in my opinion the project does in no way contradict african development.
    neither does it contradict development of renewable energy in europe. where should the other 85% come from when oil is getting scarce?
    in europe solar is fine for heating purposes.
    for electricity there is wind, biomass and wave power (seadog has it’s technology almost ready for mass application).

  7. Leafy November 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I concur with earthworm. I question the basic premise of vast projects with emormous capital costs and huge amounts of embodied energy. Why do we need to build these mega projects to pump electricity across vast distances so that someone in Norway can warm a plate of noodles? Why not generate that electricty on their rooftop or in their backyard? Could it be because models of energy production which are cheap, easy and decentralized do not fit development models that the corporate world can control? The global paradigm of centralized production and thinking big may be a greater problem for sustainability than the actual implementation of renewable energy. We are still on a path of big solar controlled in many cases by the same multinationals that have led us into a precarious position.

  8. davidwayneosedach November 6, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Fabulous future oriented thinking! Because of its enormous coverage the price of the solar panels should come down.We could do the same in the Mojave.

  9. earthworm November 4, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I don’t want to seem negative because this is an amazing project and definitely a step in the right direction, but unfortunately I see this as another example of exploiting a country that has a history of being exploited. Yes, this project will create jobs. Yes, this project may include desalination plants and provide Africa with fresh water (something that is indeed drastically needed). But how can anyone be alright with supplying EUROPE with 15% of their energy demand when most of Sub-Saharan Africa is lacking any energy infrastructure at all? With the amount of energy that Europe uses currently, I can only imagine what that would mean to African nations. Maybe their are issues with the actual infrastructure to deliver the energy to the rest of Africa, but if 555 Billion can be invested in this project, it should be invested with the goal of providing clean power to those who have no power. Leapfrog technologies like this are potential world-changing implementations, and getting a solar infrastructure set up in Africa is something that needs to be done. For everyone’s benefit.

  10. alexjameslowe November 4, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    Awesome! Can’t wait until they actually break ground on this thing!

  11. Eclipse Now November 4, 2009 at 2:52 am

    I wonder how extra jobs, funding, and *water* will help the African Union develop? With the EU passing the Lisbon treaty today, they provide a model government structure for the AU to follow. Indeed, with the EU passing this, do we really need an AU?

    Shouldn’t we all get passed the traumas of the past and start considering a World Union? (AU and EU joining up would be a good start). It’s time to sort out the international regulations on climate change and get projects like Desertec fast-tracked!

  12. Kadek Ayu Susiani Dewi November 4, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Solar energy is a gigantic alternative clean energy resource ever, and human has used it in simple way since the ancient times. In the few past decades, solar power has been utilized in limited area to support some activities, such as; using of solar thermal in architecture (solar thermal water heater) for domestic purpose, and high temperature process for industrial.

    It is the right time today has to optimize the sun power for human utilization and other purposes. This big movement in order to realize a production of renewable energy to the community must be supported. The electricity power gained can be used to eliminate dependence to fossil fuel, which was released and emitted contaminant such as CO2 gas to the air and contributed to air pollution. A gigantic Photovoltaic cell must be provided to generate solar power electricity. In addition, even though the availability of the solar power is can be predicted accurately, a solar thermal concentrator must be considered, to anticipate a condition, when the solar power is not existing fully during winter or wet season.

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