Thursday, July 2, 2009

Saharan Mega Solar

It is nice to see something this brave been drummed. Of course, the method lends itself to incremental build out in accelerating stages allowing the financial supporters to not be strained.

So it is nice to talk about half a trillion dollars but you start with a hundred million plant and establish the entire key infrastructure. All that power must make it into Europe. This is not dissimilar to the James Bay power development which presently supplies the North East.

Again doubling it up every few years and you get there amazingly quickly.

Parabolic mirrors and a heat reception pipe at the focus have been obvious from day one. The main trick is to make sure that the hot spots do not get too hot. Then the working fluid must be efficient and we are comfortable with water. The pipe will have to sustain high pressure since it is necessary to produce high grade steam.

We certainly do not need Bedouin sharpshooters.

While we are at it, the devices will provide a huge amount of ground cover and substantial shade. Many plants prosper in such conditions and providing ground cover opens the door for fauna. All of that can capture and hold the little rain that does fall. Maybe we can slowly begin the restoration of the Saharan ecosystem.

Europe eyes giant desert solar power plant

by Staff Writers
Berlin (UPI) Jun 26, 2009

As the world's reserves of hydrocarbon fuels dwindle, a German-led consortium is pushing ahead with a revolutionary plan to build a giant thermal solar power plan in the North African desert that would provide up to 15 percent of
Europe's electricity needs.

The ambitious project, known as Desertec, is expected to cost $555.3 billion. It would generate inexhaustible and affordable quantities of energy across the Mediterranean -- and even on a global scale if necessary.

One of its big attractions is that it would emit no
carbon dioxide in the process. If Desertec ever gets off the ground it would be the largest green-energy project on the planet.

In theory, a global system of solar thermal power would also eliminate the prospect of resources wars erupting in the years ahead as the planet's natural resources that currently produce energy -- oil, gas and coal -- disappear.

The plan, which has been kicking around for years, got a big boost on June 17 when a group of 20 companies, including Siemens, Deutsche Bank, European energy giant E.On and insurance major Munich Re, announced they will launch the initiative at a meeting on July 13 and consolidate the consortium.

Munich Re Director Torsten Jeworrek said the consortium aims to "present concrete plans in two or three years" and start producing commercial quantities of power within a decade, freeing energy-hungry Europe from its dependence on oil, natural gas and coal.

The idea for this massive project to harness the sun's energy on a grand scale originated with a group of European scientists and politicians called the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation.

The concept of large-scale solar power has been around for some time but was never able to make the breakthrough because of cheap oil.

Those days disappeared, probably forever, a few years ago when the price oil soared to nearly $150 a barrel. In recent months it plunged back to $40 and his since crept back up to around $70. But that is still double the level it was only five or six years ago.

"No energy source even comes close to achieving the same massive energy density as sunshine," observed Hans Muller-Steinhagen, who has been commissioned by Germany's
Environment Ministry to investigate the feasibility of Desertec. He thinks it's a "real possibility."

The technology is already available, according to Muller-Steinhagen. Solar power plants have been operating, without problems, in California and Nevada since the mid-1980s.

Solar plants are now being built in southern Spain, and construction has started on similar plants, on a scale infinitely smaller than that envisioned for Desertec, in
Algeria, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Desertec, according to its advocates, will be distinctly low-tech and won't require nuclear reactors or CO2-emitting coal-fired power plants.

The sun's energy would be collected in huge arrays of curved mirrors known as "parabolic trough collectors." They would heat water, which generates steam that drives turbines that produce electricity.

Muller-Steinhagen estimates that a huge complex of these mirrors across an area the size of Austria in the vast empty desert could produce enough energy to meet the entire global demand. An area one-quarter that size would be enough to power all of Europe.

Every year the sun produces 630,000 terawatt hours of energy in the Maghreb, the Arabic name for North Africa, that is untapped. Europe consumes just 4,000 terawatt hours of energy a year. That's only 0.6 percent of the unused energy that falls on the North African desert.

Solar energy can also be harnessed even in the hours of darkness, experts say.
Heat produced during the day can be stored in tanks of molten salt, allowing the Desertec turbines to produce electricity even when the sun's not shining.

For the North African states -- Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt -- Desertec would be of immense economic benefit. It would not only produce cheap energy for the region but create jobs and industrial opportunities that would attract investment.


Gerry Wolff said...

The DESERTEC project sounds expensive but we should not forget that power plants of all kinds need to be replaced when the wear out. Huge amounts of money are being spent all the time on replacing old kit with new.

According to research at the German Aerospace Centre, "clean power from deserts" is likely to work out cheaper than business-as-usual.

Russ said...

'We certainly do not need Bedouin sharpshooters.'

That seems to be a major problem - the whole of north Africa has it's share of loonies who would like nothing better than to raise havoc with something like this.

Due to the size and towers it will be very difficult if not impossible to guard well enough to prevent sabatoge.