Desertec: the raft and the liner  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Ugo at Cassandra's Legacy has a post on the problems besetting solar thermal power venture Desertec - Desertec: the raft and the liner.

I have been following the "Desertec" story for a long time; the ambitious idea of building large scale solar plants in North Africa, to produce energy to be shipped to Europe.

Desertec always left me perplexed. With its huge plants and a price tag of some 400 b$, I always though that it was like trying to go from a raft to a transatlantic liner without ever having built anything in between. In short, a modern equivalent of the ill-fated "Great Eastern" transatlantic liner, built in mid 19th century and way too big for its times. So, I was not surprised to read, recently, that the project is in trouble (see also here).

Not that the basic idea of the Desertec project is wrong. Northern Africa receives plenty of sunlight and it has large, empty spaces that could be profitably used to harness this energy to produce electric power. But that wasn't enough to make such a large project economically sound. The first problem was the collapse of the prices of photovoltaic panels. That undercut the original idea of the project that was to rely on the use of solar concentrating power. Then, with such low prices, it made sense to build PV plants directly in Europe. Even for a lower solar irradiation, one would still avoid the huge costs of the infrastructure needed for bringing electric power from North Africa.

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