Camels crossing the Moroccan desert

 

Previously we wrote about Europe’s desire to turn the North African and Middle East deserts into a solar and wind power generator by mid-century. (Europe Covets The North African Desert)  Using concentrated solar power, the Desertec project hopes to  provide 15 % of Europe’s electricity needs and help the continent achieve its target of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.  (Desertec Foundation website)

Now it appears that dream is about to become a reality.

Several sources this week report that the German-led Desertec project has begun work in Morocco to build the first phase of a 500 MW solar farm scheduled to start next year.  The facility will likely be constructed near the desert city of Ouarzazate. It will use parabolic mirrors to generate heat for conventional steam turbines to generate electricity. According to German media reports, the first phase of the project will take between two and four years to complete and will cost around €600m.

From The Guardian we learn:

The 12 square kilometre Moroccan solar farm will, said Paul van Son, Desertec Industrial Initiative chief executive, be a “reference project” to prove to investors and policy makers in both Europe and the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region that the Desertec vision is not a dream-like mirage, but one that can be a major source of renewable electricity in the decades ahead.

Discussions are already underway with the Tunisian government about building a solar farm, he said, and Algeria is the next “obvious” country, due to its close proximity to western Europe’s grid. Countries such as Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia are predicted to start joining the network from 2020, as a network of high voltage direct current cables are built and extended across the wider region. (source)

Germany is particularly keen on Desertec’s success given its recent decision to abandon nuclear energy in favour of renewables.   This was underscored at Desertec’s annual conference this week. Jochen Homann, the state secretary at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology, told the conference:

“We undertook major reforms in German energy policy this summer and Desertec opens up an opportunity for us. We want to enter the age of renewables with sustainable sources of electricity supplying 80% of our power generation by 2050. As we accelerate our phase-out of nuclear power, we need to safeguard an affordable supply of electricity and we will be interested in importing renewables supplies in the future. Germany’s government will continue to support Desertec. It is an inspiring vision which is good for foreign, climate and economic policies.”

Bloomberg reports that Desertec expects to sign an agreement with Algeria next month to build a renewable power facility.

Desertec believes that a vast network of solar and windfarms across the MENA region would help to halt migration into Europe, by fast-tracking the rise of the region’s youthful population out of poverty and unemployment.

The Guardian has an interactive web page that illustrates Desertec’s grand scheme to use the African and Middle Eastern deserts to power Europe.

Green Prophet covers the Desertec conference here.

Other sources posting on this story are REVE (here) Business Green (here), Green Prophet (here), and Clean Technica (here).

See also African Concentrated Solar Energy to Power Europe at REVE.

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1 Comment on Desertec Begins in Morocco

  1. […] REVE says that Desertec plans to install 2 GW of concentrated solar energy in Tunisia. This is roughly double the power from a typical nuclear plant. Desertec has already constructed a solar plant n Morocco and has plans to supply Europe with 15% of its electricity from the North African desert. The first electricity exports from Tunisia are set to reach Europe by 2016 via a new low-loss transmission line to Italy. Solar radiation in North Africa is three times that of Central Europe. Plants built in this location produce more electricity and have the potential to replace more conventional, carbon-intensive forms of power. The Tunisian plant can provide enough electricity to power 700 000 European homes. You can read more about Desertec here. […]