solar thermal electric

Europe in search of solar power in Africa

The concept is to use the deserts of North Africa to produce electricity and desalinate water using solar thermoelectric power plants and solar concentrating systems. By 2050, Europe could receive 15% of its electricity from the African desert. The project is called Desertec.

At the invitation of the insurance giant, Munich Re, a group of corporations is exploring the vision of what would be one of the largest green electricity initiatives ever undertaken by the private sector: Desertec. The project, which is based on existing technology, would involve building huge solar power plants in the middle of the desert.

Although this project could benefit the environment, Munich Re’s main reason for prompting this work was to help protect its own balance sheets, since natural catastrophes are among the most expensive losses hitting insurance companies. "If we fail to mitigate climate change, our Group will suffer the consequences along with everybody else", says Dr. Torsten Jeworrek, member of the Board of Management of Munich Re and head of its Reinsurance Committee.

The Desertec ("desert + technology") concept has been developed over the last few years based on an initiative by the Club of Rome Germany and studies conducted by the German Aerospace Centre DLR to promote the vision of a carbon-free energy supply. The basic idea is to build solar thermoelectric power plants and wind farms in the Sahara desert, initially to cover the growing demand for electric power in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). Experts project that an area of "only" 130 x 130 kilometres would be sufficient for Desertec to supply all of Europe’s energy needs.

Ensuring energy security

With the help of Desertec, Europe could obtain around 15% of its electricity from North Africa by 2050. The technology needed to put this pioneering project into practice already exists, although a considerable sum of approximately €400 billion is required. By diversifying its energy sources, the German Aerospace Centre estimates that Europe could reduce it dependence on imports from 70% today to 45–50%, and the share of fossil energy supplies to 50%.

Max Schön, President of the Club of Rome Germany, believes the advantages of the project are clear: "What makes Desertec so attractive is that it would make a vital contribution: firstly, to protecting our climate and, secondly, to ensuring the security of energy and water supplies for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East."

No new technologies would be required What nakes Desertec especially interesting is that the technology required already exists. Solar thermoelectric power plants with a total capacity of 500 MW are already in operation, additional plants with a capacity of 1 GW are under construction, and more than ten GW power plants are at an advanced planning stage.

However, how much would each unit of electricity generated in North Africa cost Europe? Prof. Hans Müller-Steinhagen of the German Aerospace Centre belives costs could fall. "At present, each power plant is unique. Mass production and experience will lower costs substantially, however. The next step will be to develop solar-powered gas turbine plants that operate without cooling water." The German Aerospace Centre assumes that in 10-15 years' time, the electricity generated by solar power plants will be able to compete with the medium-load electricity from fossil power plants.

Although substantial initial financing would be required which would therefore need suitable incentivisation mechanisms, Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek is confident that this concept could become a reality: "Desertec is clearly banking on the right incentives in the long term, namely climate protection and a low-carbon energy sector. With our initiative, we are therefore commencing a dialogue with visionary thinkers and companies that, like us, are convinced of Desertec's enormous economic, ecological and social potential."

For additional information:

Baterías con premio en la gran feria europea del almacenamiento de energía
El jurado de la feria ees (la gran feria europea de las baterías y los sistemas acumuladores de energía) ya ha seleccionado los productos y soluciones innovadoras que aspiran, como finalistas, al gran premio ees 2021. Independientemente de cuál o cuáles sean las candidaturas ganadoras, la sola inclusión en este exquisito grupo VIP constituye todo un éxito para las empresas. A continuación, los diez finalistas 2021 de los ees Award (ees es una de las cuatro ferias que integran el gran evento anual europeo del sector de la energía, The smarter E).