Among the few rewards of blogging are the field trips supplied to see clean energy technology in action. On one such bloggers’ clean tech tour last summer in Finland, I met the (then very pregnant) editor of Green Prophet, a site set in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and she subsequently invited me to write for her site.
The region is a joy to write about, because – compared with the US, hobbled by its bizarrely obstructionist Republican party – the commitment to renewables at the government level in so many MENA nations is implementable. Policy is supported by the proximity to the EU, and its Clean Development Mechanism, which funds renewables as part of the EU commitment to the Kyoto Accord and the resulting climate-stabilising policies of carbon constraint.
Pictured: Paul van Son, Desertec CEO, an idealistic desert expert with the sensitivity required for conducting delicate negotiations and dealing with diverse cultures, together with the very progressive Mahmoud Attia Mustafa, Vice Chairman of NREA, Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority.
The MENA region is now jumping with clean energy activity as a result, including the actual beginnings of Desertec, the visionary half-trillion dollar plan to power 15% of Europe from the North African desert across the Mediterranean, and the Moroccan plan to power 42% of its kingdom with solar.
Taffline Laylin, one of my fellow writers at Green Prophet just posted her pictures from one such tour. She attended the Desertec conference in Cairo this month. (And it’s not all rainbows and sunshine: she did wind up having to take taxis around because of unwanted advances in the Cairo streets). But the revolution has changed little in the renewable direction of Egypt, which has been terrific, even before the revolution.
Her field trip to see Egypt’s first solar thermal power plant yielded some of her typically terrific pictures, of the new 150 MW Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant just opened 95 kilometers south of Cairo that I reported earlier this year.
“Brimming with the kind of energy that infuses a school field trip, roughly 80 professionals from the renewable energy industry packed into two large buses outside the Semiramis International Hotel in Cairo last Friday,” she says.
Iberdrola was awarded the $220 million contract to build Kuraymat by the Egyptian government’s New Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) in September 2007 after an international public tendering process, and the company began work on building it in 2009, near the grid, 95 kilometers from Cairo.
It began operation in July of 2011, and has been feeding solar energy into the Egyptian grid every day since.
Funding included a $50 million grant from the World Bank and a $190 million loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Like all solar thermal plants, it is just made of steel and mirrors, not the photovoltaic panels that most people assume comprises utility-scale solar projects. In fact few utility-scale solar projects are PV. Most use the sun to make steam-powered electricity, one way or another, using the same kind of turbines to make electricityas the old fashioned fossil fuel plants.
In fact this one keeps those same turbines running at night, too. It moonlights on fossil power. The plant operates at night as a 110 MW combined cycle gas power plant. But desert days are looooooong – and by day it operates as a 150 MW solar thermal plant supplying the peak hours when air conditioning is needed most.