For many years the Middle East has shipped carbon based fuels to Europe- now a plan to ship clean electrons on this same route has just moved one step forward. A group of 12 European companies is moving forward with the signing of contracts last week to form an LLC called Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII.) This project is likely the most ambitious power project ever created and aims to power up to 15% of Europe’s electricity needs (100 GW) using massive solar thermal farms in the sunny, desolate Middle Eastern/North African deserts and transmitting these electrons North to Europe.
This Munich based consortium hopes to begin transmission by 2015, finish by 2050 and cost around $400 billion. The project, if successful, will help alleviate dependence on Russian gas as well as power some North African communities. Newly designed transmission technologies aim to reduce transmission load loss typically observed over high distance transmission. Some of the many risks the project will need to overcome are: geopolitical issues, international cooperation amongst many non-neighboring countries, transmission challenges, solar thermal technology risk, capital constraints, and project/transmission location needs. Desertec certainly could prove to be a profitable and high profile success story however if these challenges are all managed well.
The list of companies penned to benefit from this massive deal is: ABB, Abengoa Solar, Cevital, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Milenium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE, Schott Solar and Siemens.
Sources: 1) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8337735.stm