The Desertec project is a great idea. Solar Thermal has shown to provide the most efficient way to harness the power of the sun and to support sun-starved Europe from Africa makes sense.
Now to the business plan.
The technology behind Desertec.
Ever since the news came out about Desertec, a $555 billion project to build solar thermal plants in Northern Africa’s Sahara desert to funnel solar power to Europe, we’ve been scratching our heads about what to make of it. The sheer size (supposedly large enough to supply up to 15 percent of Europe’s electricity needs), cost and timeline (over 40 years) is so utterly massive and ambitious, the project will no doubt look very different when — and if — it ever makes it to light. But despite the “fantasy” nature of the plan, a dozen serious and respected companies have signed a memorandum of understanding today to investigate how to build the project.
Participants include German engineering company Siemens, German insurer Munich Re, Deutsche Bank, German utilities RWE and EON, Spain’s power company Abengoa, Zurich’s electricity grid builder ABB, Algerian firm Cevital, European bank HSH Nordbank, engineering company M+W Zander, and solar firms Schott Solar and Solar Millennium.
The group now has the overwhelming goal of writing up a business plan for a project that will involve hundreds of solar thermal plants and massive underseas high-voltage transmission cables spanning countries. The blueprint of the plan itself will take three years just to develop and incorporate under German law. Some of the German firms already did some feasibility studies to the tune of $1.4 million, says Bloomberg, but of course those initial funds are just a grain of sand in the entire Desertec.
Interview with CEO of Siemens.
Löscher: We will be covering the whole chain of energy conversion, from efficient and environmentally friendly power generation via transport and distribution right up to end uses of electric power. Desertec is not just about solar and wind energy, it is also about energy superhighways for the low-loss transmission of power over thousands of kilometers and the management of such complex systems.
SPIEGEL: Some experts have said they think it’s not economical to transport solar power to Europe through huge distribution grids under the Mediterranean Sea.
Löscher: Energy superhighways can be both technologically efficient and economical. A few years ago we connected Tasmania with the Australian continent. And from 2011 there will be a 250-kilometer undersea cable supplying Majorca with electricity from the Spanish mainland. For us, this kind of thing is now part of our core business.