Sahara Solar Power?

We’ve been hearing more and more about desert solar arrays as one, of the many, essential technologies to back off of CO2 production and end our dependence on Middle-East oil.  California, Arizona, China, Australia all have projects going, or in the works.  How about the biggest desert in the world, the Sahara?  Is it feasible to generate enough solar power there, and transmit it to population centers to make it a viable hope?  Some big investors think so.

“The Sahara gets twice as much sunshine annually as most of Europe. The European Union wants to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within a decade. So why not build solar power plants across North Africa and ship the electricity north via power lines under the Mediterranean?

Over the past year, more than 30 European companies have joined the Desertec Industrial Initiative, a consortium that seeks a $560 billion investment in North African solar and wind installations over the next 40 years. The group is completing a feasibility study and hopes to be building its first power plant by 2013.

A separate group of companies called Transgreen, formed in July, is working on plans for the thousands of miles of high-voltage lines needed. The challenge is immense: Winning agreement from very different countries on two continents to carry out one of the biggest infrastructure projects in history.

Read more at SF Gate:

It’s true there is a lot sunshine in the Sahara.  Is it enough, after transmission loss, the threat of disruption of a few “backbone” transmission lines, the still sticky Euro-Afro relationships to be better than solar panels on every available horizontal surface large cities have to offer?  It is there, after all, the energy has to be, before it is consumed.  Would a million small solar panels be more resistant to disruption — weather, earthquake, switch failure, terror attack– than several large, industrial size plants in the deserts of Libya, Egypt, Algeria?

Do we have a choice, given the speed of approach of climate change and the inability of governing bodies to make decisions?  We may be throwing mud in a fast moving river and anything to hand will be important.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.