Sahara-Europe solar plan welcomed

A 400-billion-euro (US$560-billion) plan to pump solar energy from the Sahara to Europe has been warmly welcomed, Agence France-Presse reported. The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), scheduled for completion in 2050, would see solar-power generators span North Africa and the Middle East to Saudi Arabia, with the electricity generated shared by producer countries and European partners.

Powered by 12 mostly German companies from the engineering, energy and finance sectors, the DII has won broad support, including from groups in Algeria and Spain and officials in Egypt and Jordan.

The project’s technique, called solar thermal electrical generation (STEG), uses reflected sun rays to create the intense heat and steam that drives a generator. Water desalinisation plants for host nations also are a part of the plan.

Matthias Fawer, a sustainable-energy analyst at the Swiss bank Sarasin, called the initiative “a visionary concept” but said it was not the only solution.  “I wouldn’t bet on one horse,”  he told AFP, adding that it also was important to speak of developing wind-energy parks in the North Sea and geo-thermal energy in places where that was appropriate.

Fawer also noted the importance of helping North Africa, the home region of many European immigrants, to develop its economy. “We need to support this continent,”  he said.  “ Europe and Africa should work much closer together.”  Enthusiasm for the project meant “maybe there are new concepts beyond coal and gas and beyond nuclear power that are becoming viable and are also valid on a cost basis”,  Fawer added.

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