Clean Power

Published on April 15th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


“Within 6 Hours Deserts Receive More Energy from the Sun than Humankind Consumes Within a Year”

April 15th, 2012 by  


This is a nice quote from the Desertec site, featured on the image above, that I thought made for another nice, short weekend share. And, of course, that’s a pretty stunning statistic. Any wonder why some of the world’s top companies are putting over half a trillion dollars into Desertec?

Thanks to one of our top readers for this share.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Edward Kerr

    Like both Tom and Ross I have a some concerns with this “plan” as it does continue the “centralized power production” paradigm. It’s the economic power that accrues to ‘centralization in general’ that is a big part of the world’s woes these days. However, having said that I am in support of any solar based electrical power generation. Coal and nuclear (and to a lesser degree Natural Gas) are an environmental disaster and need to be abandoned ASAP………, rock on Desertec..

  • ThomasGerke

    I have nothing against the project, but I fear it’s one of those huge projects that have heavy organisational and political barrieres, that will drag on for years / decades, before it makes a meaningful contribution.

    In it’s course it’s a wonderful legitimization for fossil & nuclear power, cause Desertec isn’t ready yet… or it will be used to get huge subsidies from the public.

    If this project becomes a reallity, without massiv public funding and despite the people building their own local and decentralized renewable energy systems… then I am all for it.

    But seeing some names of big fossil & nuclear energy corporations in the list of partner, it makes me wonder how much of it is greenwashing and how much of it is an honest investment.

    • Ross

      The articles I read here on cleantechnica have made we a bit less wildly enthusiastic for this project which does have a highly appealing simplicity.

      The Desertec site has a good FAQ responding to the criticisms it gets. I don’t know enough to judge the quality of the responses.

      e.g. Doesn’t such a large-scale project consolidate the old monopolistic structures of large corporations and stand in the way of developing decentralized sources of renewable energy?

      Excluding large corporations from climate protection doesn’t really make sense. Monopolistic structures are not a prerequisite to DESERTEC, and working only with small, decentralized units of supply and efficiency cannot attain the sustainable supply required to meet the energy needs of fast-growing cities worldwide. What’s more important is to find a sensible and necessary supplement for the existing supply. This is where large corporations can play a useful role. Within 5-10 years, photovoltaics will probably be able to compete with consumer energy prices charged by energy providers during the day and hence keep them low. Since the power production costs of energy providers are significantly lower than that of private production, they will have enough elbow room to exist in future markets (particularly if they focus in a timely manner on renewable sources of energy which are stable in terms of price). Should energy providers be willing to make massive investments in renewable sources of energy, this will be a welcome development with regard to climate protection.

      • ThomasGerke

        The question is, will they actually make these massive international investments without public funds and without knowing if there will be a market for their electricity?

        If they go ahead without making us all foot the bill and without trying to prevent decentralized production, I welcome this project. It’s sure better than new nukes. 😉

        Untill it is here, I will consider it to be a mirage in the desert. They should build it to supply the middle east first and foremost.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Desertec is happening.

    Not only are solar installations in North Africa being set up to feed electricity to Europe, plans are now underway to hook the British Isles to Iceland’s geothermal and hydro sources.

    There are already transmission lines between the British Isles and mainland Europe.

    Desertec is being built right now.

    Here’s a larger version of the image – you can read the text there.

    That larger red square? It’s how much of the World’s land would be required were we to make 100% of the World’s electricity with CSP.

    The North Africa/Middle East/Europe Desertec covers a lot of time zones. Think how that extends the solar day, reducing the need for storage.

    • lukealization

      I like the Desertec idea, but I see one inefficiency which really nag me about the project. It’s that transferring power results in losses – the farther you go, the greater the power loss. I understand that using HVDC minimizes those losses (3% every 1000 km), but there is still some electricity being generated that won’t make it to anyone. I’d still prefer to also keep solar cells on my roof.

      But, if that’s the only downside, then it’s a fantastic project. Spread it out over a few degrees longitude and you have a much greater collection area in more hours of the day, and if you use some molten salt to store the excess energy, then you’ve got 24/7 power. Amazing.

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