Feeds

Big EU imports of Sahara sun-power coming soon?

Headlines to which the answer is no

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.