Abengoa Solar has signed an agreement to join as a founding member of the inspirational Desertec idea to supply Europe and Africa electricity from a chain of huge solar thermal projects in the Sahara.
The ambitious plan requires building direct current transmission to connect the continents, but once in place – would make it possible to generate a very large amount of Europe’s electricity with renewable energy.
And supply all African electricity needs with close to 100% solar power.
The plan has some critics. One; German Member of Parliament Hermann Scheer is worried about possible cost overruns. He calls Desertec a desert mirage; one that is politically and economically untested.
But Siemens CEO Peter Loescher says the project is no more far-fetched than the trans-Atlantic telegraphic cable laid by Siemens back in 1876.
The technology for solar thermal plants is well established, with plants already feeding power into the grid in California and Spain.
Solar thermal power plants use the familiar concept of boiling water to produce steam to drive turbines that generate electricity. The difference is just what boils the water. Instead of burning up fossil fuels, solar thermal systems just use hundreds of mirrors for concentrating sunlight on one spot.
One big advantage of solar thermal plants is that heat can be stored at night or when the sun is not shining to continue producing power 24/7, making solar baseload power.
Abengoa is a pioneer in the construction of solar power plants in Northern Africa and the Middle East with two Integrated Solar Combined Cycle plants in Morocco and Algeria.
Author: S. Kraemer