Solar power across the Sahara

If you read SEWOTHA (which I highly recommend you to do; and read the book, not just the blog, which has gone a bit quiet recently) you’ll discover the idea that the only really viable way of getting *all* our energy needs in a sustainable way is from solar power plants in the hot deserts – in the case of Yorp, North Africa / Sahara; in the case of the Americas, the hot dry bit in the middle whatever it is called (they are due to the Hadley circulation, so pretty well everyone has one not too far away).

Anyway, someone else has now noticed the idea and Science has a piece on it, mostly paywalled. Sounds good to me – what is the point in putting solar cells in wet cloudy northern latitudes when the same cells will work so much better further south? Oh, the transport and political problems. Well, we’ll get round them somehow. Or maybe we’ll just move there. Who wants to live in Cambridge anyway?

Desertec, one of the world’s most ambitious multinational efforts to scale up renewable energy, aims to build solar and other renewable power projects across North Africa and the Middle East capable of producing 500 gigawatts of electricity and so meet 15% of Europe’s energy needs by 2050. Planners predict it will cost {euro}400 billion or more to cover tens of thousands of square kilometers of desert with solar collectors and wind turbines, connected by thousands of kilometers of power cables. The project–which backers compare to the Apollo space program–has yet to generate a single kilowatt. But it has attracted an impressive roster of political and industrial supporters in Europe and North Africa. Still, analysts say Desertec faces an array of daunting challenges, from finding ready cash to overcoming thorny political and security issues.

Desertec have a website, of course, and a Q+A section that (naturally) I haven’t read.


* Sustainable Energy – without the hot air?