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