Feeds

Big EU imports of Sahara sun-power coming soon?

Headlines to which the answer is no

Application security programs and practises

The European Union might subsidise "interconnector" undersea power lines beneath the Mediterranean for the purpose of importing solar energy from the Sahara desert, according to reports.

"I think some models starting in the next 5 years will bring some hundreds of megawatts to the European market," European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Reuters on Sunday, following a meeting with energy ministers from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

A few hundred megawatts is insignificant against European energy demand, but reportedly the EU intends to back the mighty multidecade €400bn Desertec scheme, which will see such efforts scale up into the gigawatt range.

Oettinger views the idea as a fair deal between Europe and North Africa, in which the wealthy nations north of the Mediterranean get energy and the desert nations get massive investment, jobs and knowhow.

"Renewables are a two-way partnership because electricity produced here is for the home market of north African countries," he told Reuters.

"Maybe a bigger percentage of the electricity will be exported to Europe but at the same time we have to export the technology, tools, machines, experts, and so it's a real partnership, not only a partnership by selling and by buying."

Solar power plants' performance worsens severely the further north of the Equator they are situated, owing to the increased slant at which the sunlight strikes the atmosphere and the surface beneath. The cloudier skies of the higher latitudes add a further negative effect.

This means that a given solar plant delivers hugely more power if it is placed in the Sahara than it could in Europe, and most analysts believe that this more than offsets the added cost of power lines to carry the juice north. Thus North African solar is a very commonly-advocated green energy plan - so much so that it is common to read statements such as: "If just 1 per cent of the Sahara Desert were covered in concentrating solar panels it would create enough energy to power the entire world. That's a powerful number ..."

Powerful yes, but actually complete rubbish*, as well as being meaningless. The limiting factors on Saharan sun power are not area but cost and the attitude/capability of governments in the area.

However, nothing of any real note - nothing to compare with existing European fossil-fuel imports from North Africa, for instance - is yet on the cards. Reuters reports that the various industrial titans participating in Desertec have yet to present their plans to Brussels. They are expected to demand subsidies as a condition of proceeding, but these may or may not be forthcoming in sufficient quantity.

Green groups have reportedly voiced concerns that the interconnector lines might actually be used to sell cheap, dirty fossil power to Europe under the pretence that it was green.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Next page: *Bootnote

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.