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Published on April 21st, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


MENA To Europe Supergrid Could Facilitate Near-100% Renewable Energy

April 21st, 2016 by  

A megalithic ‘Supergrid’ connecting Northern Africa with Europe could help both regions reach near-100% renewable energy share.

Satellite EuropeThis is the primary conclusion from a new report published by Fraunhofer ISE, which was worked on by five separate Fraunhofer institutes, each using their individual expertise to examine the idea of a Supergrid which would connect the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region with Europe. The report, which developed several Supergrid scenarios, evaluating their potential as well as the necessary technologies and policies, found that decarbonization of the electricity systems in the EU and MENA by focusing on renewable energies “is possible and economically practicable.”

If this near-100% expansion of renewable energy in North Africa were to benefit Europe, however, a transition to “a meshed superimposed HVDC grid with bipolar VSC technology which allows the transmission of fluctuating power from renewable power plants over long distances” would be necessary.

“The results of the study show that decarbonizing the electricity supply in Europe and North Africa is feasible in a cost-effective manner,” said Professor Dr. Werner Platzer, project leader and division director at Fraunhofer ISE. “In each of the scenarios modeled, very high shares close to 100% renewable energy were achieved by 2050.”

Concentrated solar thermal power plants (CSP) would play a major role in a renewable-based supply system in the MENA region, complementing the fluctuating generation from the wind and solar which would be the primary methods of generating renewable energy. Specifically, “Wind energy in North Africa has high and cost-efficient potentials, but the site selection is dependent on local wind conditions.”

Integrating European and North African grids would also lead to lower costs, as the fluctuating nature of renewable electricity generation would prefer stronger integration of national electricity markets.

More about the report can be found here, and the report is available for download here (PDF).

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  • Matjaž Ciglar

    2050 is far from good. We need another E.Musk to do this in next 10 years.

  • Doug Cutler

    What is the cost comparison between a Mena supergrid and emerging grid storage?

    • Bob_Wallace

      That is a very important question.

      We need a ‘big grid, bigger grid’ model based on real world data. We’ve got hour by hour (if not minute by minute) data from wind and solar farms in several parts of Europe (and the US). Load/demand data is available. Data on how much hydro is available and how much is dispatchable is available. Existing storage is a known number.

      Budischak’s study laid out the method. Take the available data. Use an expected cost for new generation, transmission and storage. Let the computer crank through various mixes, including extending the grid further, to work out the least expensive mix.

    • Jenny Sommer

      Grid storage is hydro with CSP/molten salt as regional balancing mainly in NA post 2030 replacing gas.
      Wind still does the heavy lifting though they believe that PV will be cost competitive somewhere past 2030.
      Czisch almost ruled out PV in the first place and also described the needed path to do anything for system cost.

      The Supergrid is the key anyways. The coordination needed to develope such a plan according to one single scenario isn’t going to happen anyways.

      • Bob_Wallace

        “The coordination needed to develope such a plan according to one single scenario isn’t going to happen anyways.”

        Possibly not, but a well formulated plan can serve as a guide as to what makes good sense to build next and what might be a waste of money. It might mean that, for example, a shorter HVDC run might take a slightly different route in order for it to tie to a future line.

        It might mean that less effort would be put into install solar in a country with poorer insolation and more into contracting for solar from a sunny country. Fewer solar farms in the UK and more offshore wind, trade with Italy and Greece.

    • neroden

      Transmission is way cheaper than storage right now.

  • Jenny Sommer

    Now? There’s the Supergrid Study by Gregor Czisch a decade old.
    This is the same all over again.
    By now I’d first try KiteGen plants to see if a supergrid would even be necessary.

    Why is there no Fraunhofer research on that?

    • Bob_Wallace

      Your kite stuff has now turned into spamming.

      Stop it.

  • Nick Thiwerspoon

    “Megalthic” ? It means “big stone” in Ancient Greek. A sort of electrified Stonehenge?

  • Lou Gage

    European colonial building in another form? Export cheap energy to Europe from a unstable region ? Looks like a pipe dream to me. Let the folks in North Africa have their own cheap and clean energy. Let Europe develop their own. Lou Gage

    • egriff5514

      Well so far we have had no unstable regions exporting power to Europe… except all those oil states… and the gas…

      • Ulenspiegel

        Yes, it is always funny when people accept that 75% of fossil energy is imported (mostly from unstable regions) but complain when 10-20% REs may be imorted. 🙂

    • Bob_Wallace

      Help North Africa create new income sources and jobs. Give North Africa access to Northern European wind and hydro as fill-in sources for times when their wind and solar are not enough.

      • Armchair Hydrogeologist

        I agree. You don’t have to get more than 100 miles south of Gibraltar to be out in the sticks with no source of income for the locals. Several of the countries and area nearby have no affordable (for them) access to electricity yet are sitting on some great solar potential.

        • Bob_Wallace

          If solar panels are spread from Turkey/Saudi Arabia to Portugal/Spain/Morocco the solar day gets long. About four hours longer than any one fixed point in Europe.

          With tracking the solar day might be well over 10 hours a day.

          • Shane 2

            A fat cable from Saudi to across North Africa and up to Europe through Spain would be nice, as would another up through Turkey. Unfortunately jihadis would love the notoriety of cutting that cable. They have been trying to undermine the tourism industry in Egypt and Tunisia through terrorist attacks. They try to destroy jobs and economic opportunity in their own countries.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Power feeds to/from MENA and Europe might not be something that can be done this week but that does not rule out accomplishing the task a few years from now. Or even completing it in smaller amounts now.

            Right now a lot more electricity could be shipped in from Morocco. That would create jobs on Morocco and boost the country’s economy. A lot of the support for the radical movement seems to come from economic hardship, young people who see a bleak future for themselves.

            A solar or wind farm close to the Med. A deeply buried HVDC line, fenced and guarded for the few miles until it is well under the seabed. Not an easy target, not the sort of thing where someone walks off to the fence and sets off a vest bomb and cuts the flow.

    • Ross

      There will be a big grid on the European side.
      Might as well throw a few links over to North Africa if they build their own.

      • MrL0g1c

        EU already has a big grid, importing/exporting energy is very common, Norway take advantage of their enormous pumped hydro potential, buy energy cheap and then sell it back at higher cost during output lulls. UK is building bigger links to Norway because of that storage. France exports nuclear, Germany, Scotland, Denmark etc export various renewables.

        • Ulenspiegel

          The grid in Europe is too small. Check the Norwegian transmission capacity and the demand of central Europe. It must be expanded by at least one order of magnitude.

          • MrL0g1c

            Perhaps, but it’s no more worth worrying about than it is worrying about needing a power cable for a TV, international grid is relatively cheap and is a small fraction of what a country has when you consider the thousands of towns and millions of homes that need to be connected vs a small number of country to country links.

    • Shane 2

      If you’ve got a lot more renewable energy than you need it makes sense to export it. Norway exports a lot of its renewable energy. MENA has vast solar potential. A lot more than they would use at home even if they had the GDP per capita of Germany. However MENA is jihad central and that means jihadis could cut supply. That uncertainty is not appealing.

  • Kevin McKinney


    Presumably this is a metaphor for ‘very large’, as “a meshed superimposed HVDC grid with bipolar VSC technology which allows the transmission of fluctuating power from renewable power plants over long distances” would not seem to involve gigantic stones.

    • Deep Time

      Ah, you beat me to it. I was wondering how the grid was going to be created out of large rocks…

      • Kevin McKinney


      • eveee

        I was thinking power towers that look like stonehenge.

        • Deep Time

          Let’s hope they are 18 feet tall and not 18 inches…

          • eveee


    • AllenHans

      OED recognizes a second definition of megalithic now as “(Of an organization or system) massive or monolithic”. I imagine it must be a pretty recent addition, as a result of people smashing together “mega” + “monolithic” to get “megalithic”. Still, if OED says it’s correct I guess it’s correct.

      • JamesWimberley

        The OED has always been a descriptive not a prescriptive dictionary. If the word is in use (and not just a one-off coinage), they put it in. This usage may be in use, but it sounds off to me. The image is of something massive, old and static, like the ur-megaliths at Stonehenge.

        • S Herb

          Some pictures of Stonehenge look to me like a cargo cult attempt to imitate a circular particle accelerator.

  • Hans

    Sounds like Platzer is trying to revive the Desertec project.

    • ROBwithaB

      Ja. This idea has been floating about in different forms for decades.

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