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Natural Gas Huge new solar thermal project in Egypt could indicate success for larger DESERTEC project

Published on April 18th, 2010 | by Tina Casey


New Solar Thermal Plant in Egypt Could Yield Clue to Sucess of Massive DESERTEC Project

April 18th, 2010 by  

Huge new solar thermal project in Egypt could indicate success for larger DESERTEC projectA pyramid-scale solar power plant is well under way in Kuraymat, Egypt, and the 150 megawatt giant could prove to be a key indicator for the success of a much larger project such as the pharaohs could only dream of.  That would be the international DESERTEC solar power network, which would rim northern Africa with solar and wind power plants capable of supplying solar energy to European markets. It’s an ambitious plan that rests on two key elements – the ability to collect solar energy on a massive scale, and the ability to transmit it.


As reported in Energy Boom, the Kuraymat plant will tackle the collection half of the equation.  It will consist of 2,000 solar collectors covering 130,000 square meters.  A solar thermal facility, it is designed to collect solar energy in the form of heat rather than directly converting it to electricity as is the case with photovoltaic cells.

DESERTEC and Solar Power

The DESERTEC concept is based on a factoid featured prominently on the organization’s website: “Within six hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind receives within a year.”   Though its broadly stated mission is sustainability, the DESERTEC concept also addresses the geopolitical vulnerability of fossil fuel supplies to Europe, particularly regarding its dependence on natural gas from Russia.  As for petroleum, the U.S. military is predicting a “peak oil” supply squeeze in the near future that certainly won’t help matters much.  Speaking of the U.S. we have a couple of deserts, too, so maybe it’s time we stoped pushing that same tired old fossil fuel line and start focusing on showing the Old World a thing or two about networking solar power on a mass scale.

Solar Dreams, Solar Reality

DESERTEC was conceived by Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC), a network of scientists, government officials and renewable energy experts founded in 2003 to push for a joint solution to global energy supply in the face of rising global population.  In addition to wind and solar power, the concept also includes desalination facilities.  Rather than projecting success from new solar technologies still in development, the concept relies on proven technologies that have been in use for quite some time.  The reliance on tried and true tech appears to be paying off because  DESERTEC picked up steam last year with a big cash infusion.  DESERTEC still has its critics but then again so did other future-forward projects like the first Trans-Atlantic Cable.  Hey, for that matter some people still think the moon landing was faked.

Image:  Pyramid by S J Pinkney on flickr.com.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Tanveer

    Hello Dear,

    I hope you are fine.

    I am a farmer here in Pakistan where the temperature remains over 35 degress celcius most of the year and I need information about installing and operating at least 2 mega watt solar system from renowned manufacturers and intallers. Can you guide please ?

    • Tina Casey

      There are many places to start…look up solar business directories or trade associations in your country, or if there is a large installation in your area contact the owner and ask who their installer is (and whether they are satisfied with it).

  • Mittop

    Some of the newer systems use molten salts and other non-water based fluid cycles. The other aspect that makes the large scale solar thermal interesting is the storage capacity for off-peak (re: night) use. Large molten salt reservoirs are maintained to continue power production during the night.

  • theinbetweenersonline

    Dont know how I found this site but glad I did find it. Think I was looking for something else on yahoo . Not sure I agree 100% with what you say, but have bookmarked and will pop back to read to see if you add any more posts. Keep up the good work

  • Charles Vismeg

    If it’s solar thermal, it may just be the old steam turbine process. I thought that in the desert PV is a better choice, especially with using thin film type new materials.

  • xoussef

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t water in solar thermal used in a closed circuit? I mean, even without desalination, it doesn’t require that much replacement of water once it’s in full capacity. right?

  • Mary Genoud

    Solar thermal requires lots, millions of gallons of fresh water, this is the major critic. I wish the project well, and that new desalinasation techs will make it truly sustainable.

    What could be better than a pyramid of solar power in Egypt!!

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