Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Solar Energy from Saharan Sun Could Power Europe

Solar PlantSolar thermal parabolic trough power plant;Source: Solar Millennium, TREC
According to an article published recently in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, EU scientists are working on an ambitious plan to harvest the sun in the Sahara desert in Africa to provide electricity for Europe. Europe needs a lot of electricity, but gets little sun. Vast solar power farms in the Sahara desert could provide clean electricity for the whole of Europe.

The EU scientists are calling for the creation of a series of huge solar farms - producing electricity either through photovoltaic cells, or by concentrating the sun's heat to boil water and drive turbines - as part of a plan to share Europe's renewable energy resources across the continent.

Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona (ESOF), Arnulf Jaeger-Waldau of the European commission's Institute for Energy, explained how electricity produced in solar farms in Africa, each generating around 50-200 megawatts of power, could be fed thousands of miles to European countries by using high-voltage direct current (DC) transmission lines instead of the conventional alternating current (AC) lines. Energy losses on DC lines are far lower than AC ones where transmission of energy over long distances is uneconomic.

Depending on the size of the grid, building the necessary high-voltage lines across Europe could cost up to €1-billion a year every year till 2050, but Jaeger-Walden pointed out that the figure was small when compared to a recent prediction by the International Energy Agency that the world needs to invest more than $45-trillion in energy systems over the next 30 years.

Doug Parr, Greenpeace UK's chief scientist, welcomed the proposals: "Assuming it's cost-effective, a large-scale renewable energy grid is just the kind of innovation we need if we're going to beat climate change."

The idea for developing a major innovative super-grid based on renewable energy is already gaining political support in Europe, with both the UK Prime Minster Gordon Brown and and the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy, recently backing the north African solar plan.

The scientists say that harnessing solar energy from the Sahara would be especially effective, because the sunlight in that area is much more intense: solar photovoltaic panels in northern Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe. And it would require the capture of just 0.3%of the light falling on the Sahara and Middle East deserts to meet all of Europe's energy needs.


Note: An earlier article in Spiegel Online from April 30, describes the project and also how it will benefit Africa because it is important that such an ambitious development is sustainable and beneficial to both continents. Read more: "Is Desert Solar Power the Solution to Europe's Energy Crisis?"

For the original plan visit:


Anonymous said...

There is a new world wide web emerging right before our eyes.

It is a global energy network and, like the internet, it will change our culture, society and how we do business. More importantly, it will alter how we use, transform and exchange energy.

Enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year.

There is no energy supply problem, there is an energy distribution problem -- and the emerging solution is a new world wide web of electricity.

For more information, see

ONNO said...

Sounds interesting. What are they going to give back to Africa for tapping their solar power?

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SolReka said...

Very exciting times we are living in. Heliostats, solar farms surely are the next generation in alternative energy.

Just a shame the oil barons suppress this technology.

PS Thanks for advertising on my blog SolarGirl.

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Mariya said...

Thank you for the comments to all!

@ONNO: The following two paragraphs are from the article in Spiegel Online:

"Under the plan, the sun-rich states of North Africa and the Middle East would build mirror power plants in the desert and generate electricity. As a side benefit, they could use residual heat to power seawater desalination plants, which would provide drinking water in large quantities for the arid countries. At the same time they would obtain a valuable export product: environmentally friendly electricity."

And more:

"For countries such as Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and especially Middle Eastern states, the solar power business could be the start of a truly sunny future. It could create jobs and build up a sustainable energy industry, which would bring money into these countries and enable investment in infrastructure."

@SolReka: Thank you for approving my adverts!