Solar Power Becomes the Latest Exploitable Foreign Resource as Europe-Powering Desert Plants Proposed

By Sam Gibbs on at

Looks like sunshine is just about to join oil, as yet another commodity to be exploited by Western powers in poorer countries. This time though, it doesn't sound like a half-bad idea. Set up large solar and wind farms in the African desert to power both the local region and Europe.

The idea is being proposed by the aptly named Desertec, a German company backed by both Siemens and Deutsche Bank. It's using Morocco as its first "reference" project, to test out whether the scheme will really work. It's going to use concentrated solar power, which uses the sun to heat a fluid that in-turn, heats water to produce steam and power a turbine. The advantage over other solar power generation methods is that you can store heat in the liquid for days when the sun isn't shining quite as brightly. It's anticipating sending electricity through undersea cables to Spain in 2014, and wants to provide up to 15 per cent of Europe's electricity needs, while still providing 100 per cent of local electricity needs, by 2050.

Ambitious indeed, and not without its critics; but data from the German Aerospace Centre shows that less than 1 per cent of sun-kissed land would be needed to power the whole of Europe, as well as local electricity needs. Considering we're seriously in need of alternative energy sources, and large parts of Europe aren't all that blessed with intense sunshine, it sounds like an excellent plan -- provide jobs and electricity in the local area and power Europe with renewable energy. We'll have to wait and see whether Desertec's efforts prove to be a realistic power source for our energy hungry ways, or whether it'll just be another expensive flash in the pan. [BBC]