Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Harnessing Africa for Europe

Rhetorical questions: Did anybody ask the Africans about this grand scheme? Isn't it typical of Europeans to assume that they are entitled to do what they like? Do we need electricity more than Africa? What benefit will the millions of destitute people in Africa get from this scheme?

Solar power from Saharan sun could provide Europe's electricity, says EU

· Huge £35bn supergrid would pool green sources
· Brown and Sarkozy back north African plan

A solar power plant in Spain

A concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in Spain that uses panels to refl ect light on to a central tower to produce electricity. Similar plants are proposed for north Africa. Photograph: AP

A tiny rectangle superimposed on the vast expanse of the Sahara captures the seductive appeal of the audacious plan to cut Europe's carbon emissions by harnessing the fierce power of the desert sun.

Dwarfed by any of the north African nations, it represents an area slightly smaller than Wales but scientists claimed yesterday it could one day generate enough solar energy to supply all of Europe with clean electricity.

Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, Arnulf Jaeger-Waldau of the European commission's Institute for Energy, said 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.

The 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.

A new supergrid, transmitting electricity along high voltage direct current cables would allow countries such as the UK and Denmark ultimately to export wind energy at times of surplus supply, as well as import from other green sources such as geothermal power in Iceland.

Energy losses on DC lines are far lower than on the traditional AC ones, which make transmission of energy over long distances uneconomic.

The grid proposal, which has won political support from both Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown, answers the perennial criticism that renewable power will never be economic because the weather is not sufficiently predictable. Its supporters argue that even if the wind is not blowing hard enough in the North Sea, it will be blowing somewhere else in Europe, or the sun will be shining on a solar farm somewhere.

Scientists argue that harnessing the Sahara would be particularly effective because the sunlight in this area is more intense: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in northern Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe.

Much of the cost would come in developing the public grid networks of connecting countries in the southern Mediterranean, which do not currently have the spare capacity to carry the electricity that the north African solar farms could generate. Even if high voltage cables between North Africa and Italy would be built or the existing cable between Morocco and Spain would be used, the infrastructure of the transfer countries such as Italy and Spain or Greece or Turkey also needs a major re-structuring, according to Jaeger-Waldau....continued at link

1 Comments:

Blogger Michael P. 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 http://www.terrawatts.com

1:48 PM  

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