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Green Economy desertecsolar1

Published on June 22nd, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer

28

Half a Trillion Dollars to Build Huge Desertec Plan?

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June 22nd, 2009 by
 
Desertec has for years been just the pipe dream of an international network of scientists and engineers; an example of some seriously out-of-the-box thinking on climate change prevention. It is the ambitous plan to power Europe, the Middle East and Africa off renewable power strung along a giant new supergrid of High-Voltage Direct Current transmission lines connecting the two continents.

A key element of the concept has been to build a humungous 6,500 square mile concentrated solar power (CSP) hub in the Sahara and send the massive amounts of power generated to Europe.  To cut long distance transmission losses to well under 15% across the incredible distances involved, Desertec proposed to use existing technology to build a supergid of High-Voltage Direct Current transmission lines.

“With HVDC, transmission losses are about 3% per 1000 km and there are small AC/DC conversion losses as well.” according to Desertec. ” Taking both of these into account, electricity may, for example, be transmitted from North Africa to the UK with less than 10% loss of power. It is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity for 3000 km or more.”

[social_buttons] This week Desertec is finally grabbing global headlines with an unprecedented colossal cash infusion for its project from a heavy hitter consortium of major European corporations. This would change the world solar industry. To say nothing of its impact on climate change!

Bringing Desertec to life would utterly change the face of solar energy generation for the whole planet.

It is truly a giant undertaking. Here, finally – is the serious action that we need to take to avert catastrophe.

Yet none of the technology needed is new.

(According to Desertec  plans this grid would include hydro, biomass and wind installations also, strung along the grid down the coasts as shown here)

In its current iteration, it will primarily comprise solar concentrated power from the Sahara desert. As Trek puts it: 90% of the world’s population lives within range of a desert and could be supplied with solar electricity from there.

CSP systems have been technically successful for years, and are very simple; comprising giant arrays of solar mirrors that concentrate direct desert sunlight to drive a conventional steam turbine and generate electricity.  These are powerfully effective systems for future utility-scale clean energy generation.

Desertec has been evaluating other deserts too on how much space is needed: ” The entire world’s electricity demand could be satisfied by a hypothetical concentrating solar power mirror field in Outback Australia 432 kilometres on a side.”

And making the switch to DC for long distance transmission has only been limited by the cost of making such a complete overhaul of existing transmission. But as Anthony Patt of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis points out – “the cost of moving electricity long distances has really come down.”

So all Desertec has lacked was funding.

Now the reinsurance giant Munich Re and some of the heaviest hitters in Europe are forming a consortium to raise $555 billion for the much discussed project; the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung revealed this week.  Among the other 20 firms are the Deutsche Bank and German engineering leader Siemens.

Munich-Re is the reinsurance firm that pays back insurance companies when they are wiped out by the ever increasing numbers of natural disasters fueled by climate change. So Munich Re’s bottom line is already impacted by climate change losses. As a result it has been far more forward-thinking than other major corporations who have yet to see bottom line impact from climate change. Munich Re has been ahead of other firms in publicizing the dangers of climate change risks to coastlines and property values.

Munich Re had requested the details last year to review. Now the company’s Torsten Jeworek pronounces the project technologically practicable.

How encouraging it is when a brilliant concept like Desertec gets a chance to be implemented!

Image from Munich Re

Via Stacy Feldman at SolveClimate

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today, PV-Insider , SmartGridUpdate, and GreenProphet. She has also been published at Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.



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  • http://www.phibetaiota.net JZ

    The outline is not convincing. Demand for energy is from the developed world. “The entire world” demand for electricity is obviously not equal.

    I’m wondering who will ultimately benefit and who will be exploited/screwed with this concept. Will the African countries have a fair gain, or will they see an excess amount of money leave their countries?

    Quite fascinating that locations where there may be near-zero electricity available could supply countries hundreds or thousands of miles away to quench electricity demands. How much of this concept is aimed at developing poverty stricken locations?

    Answers to these questions might be addressed to some degree at the Desertec website, but I have not explored all of it yet. I look forward to a more broad and deeper look at what this all means to those regions of the world.

  • http://www.phibetaiota.net JZ

    The outline is not convincing. Demand for energy is from the developed world. “The entire world” demand for electricity is obviously not equal.

    I’m wondering who will ultimately benefit and who will be exploited/screwed with this concept. Will the African countries have a fair gain, or will they see an excess amount of money leave their countries?

    Quite fascinating that locations where there may be near-zero electricity available could supply countries hundreds or thousands of miles away to quench electricity demands. How much of this concept is aimed at developing poverty stricken locations?

    Answers to these questions might be addressed to some degree at the Desertec website, but I have not explored all of it yet. I look forward to a more broad and deeper look at what this all means to those regions of the world.

  • http://www.phibetaiota.net JZ

    The outline is not convincing. Demand for energy is from the developed world. “The entire world” demand for electricity is obviously not equal.

    I’m wondering who will ultimately benefit and who will be exploited/screwed with this concept. Will the African countries have a fair gain, or will they see an excess amount of money leave their countries?

    Quite fascinating that locations where there may be near-zero electricity available could supply countries hundreds or thousands of miles away to quench electricity demands. How much of this concept is aimed at developing poverty stricken locations?

    Answers to these questions might be addressed to some degree at the Desertec website, but I have not explored all of it yet. I look forward to a more broad and deeper look at what this all means to those regions of the world.

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  • http://www.etopianews.com Marc Strassman

    You can hear more about Siemens’ plans for Desertec at: http://blip.tv/file/2289972

  • http://www.etopianews.com Marc Strassman

    You can hear more about Siemens’ plans for Desertec at: http://blip.tv/file/2289972

  • http://www.etopianews.com Marc Strassman

    You can hear more about Siemens’ plans for Desertec at: http://blip.tv/file/2289972

  • http://livingwithelephants.org Doug Groves

    Great idea that should help to turn the tide. Botswana and Namibia are also good candidates each with modest electricity requirements (about 500MW each) and

    fewer than 2M people each and about 350 days per year of blast furnace sun!!!

  • http://livingwithelephants.org Doug Groves

    Great idea that should help to turn the tide. Botswana and Namibia are also good candidates each with modest electricity requirements (about 500MW each) and

    fewer than 2M people each and about 350 days per year of blast furnace sun!!!

  • http://dotcommodity.blogspot.com Susan Kraemer
  • http://dotcommodity.blogspot.com Susan Kraemer
  • http://dotcommodity.blogspot.com Susan Kraemer

    @Link – The red square on the map desertec puts out does not indicate one large installation, but merely the total area that desertec proposed to supply the electricity needs for Europe and the world, if that much space was used in total for csp installations.

    A similar project was estimated in a Scientific American estimate for powering one third of the USA off of space in Nevada.

    Surprisingly it would use less land than is now used for mountainyop strip coal mining. And the desert creatures could still run around around underneath solar collectors as they do now. Unlike coal mining.

    Solar Grand Plan published in Scientific American said we could power 1/3 of the nations electricity with 30,000 square miles of photovoltaic arrays.

    That sounds like a lot of space, but that is actually less square miles than coal per gigawatt produced, when you include the mined areas, not merely coal power stations. It seems like a lot because its all in one place, unlike coal mines.

    More than enough land in the Southwest is available without requiring use of environmentally sensitive areas, population centers or difficult terrain, says the NREL. More than 80 percent is not privately owned. Arizona is very interested in developing this solar potential because coal is water intensive. This could eliminate the need for more than half the nation’s coal plants.”

  • http://dotcommodity.blogspot.com Susan Kraemer

    @Link – The red square on the map desertec puts out does not indicate one large installation, but merely the total area that desertec proposed to supply the electricity needs for Europe and the world, if that much space was used in total for csp installations.

    A similar project was estimated in a Scientific American estimate for powering one third of the USA off of space in Nevada.

    Surprisingly it would use less land than is now used for mountainyop strip coal mining. And the desert creatures could still run around around underneath solar collectors as they do now. Unlike coal mining.

    Solar Grand Plan published in Scientific American said we could power 1/3 of the nations electricity with 30,000 square miles of photovoltaic arrays.

    That sounds like a lot of space, but that is actually less square miles than coal per gigawatt produced, when you include the mined areas, not merely coal power stations. It seems like a lot because its all in one place, unlike coal mines.

    More than enough land in the Southwest is available without requiring use of environmentally sensitive areas, population centers or difficult terrain, says the NREL. More than 80 percent is not privately owned. Arizona is very interested in developing this solar potential because coal is water intensive. This could eliminate the need for more than half the nation’s coal plants.”

  • Link

    RE: Joe K:

    The opportunity with this scenario is that climate change could be slowed down, if there is a global DESERTEC program. Do you have a better idea? The ecosystems has no borders.

  • Link

    RE: Joe K:

    The opportunity with this scenario is that climate change could be slowed down, if there is a global DESERTEC program. Do you have a better idea? The ecosystems has no borders.

  • Link

    RE: Joe K:

    The opportunity with this scenario is that climate change could be slowed down, if there is a global DESERTEC program. Do you have a better idea? The ecosystems has no borders.

  • Link

    Its not ONE big power plant. The concept shows numberous of CSP plants. Check out http://www.desertec.org/en/concept/

  • Link

    Its not ONE big power plant. The concept shows numberous of CSP plants. Check out http://www.desertec.org/en/concept/

  • Joe K

    The problem with this scenario is trading oil control by the mozlems for solar electric control of the mozlems.

    REALLY BAD IDEA.

  • Joe K

    The problem with this scenario is trading oil control by the mozlems for solar electric control of the mozlems.

    REALLY BAD IDEA.

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