African Solar Could Power all of Europe
Mediterranean Union was launched by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy in concurrence with the European Union. This new international organization will include sixteen non-EU states from around the Mediterranean and all the twenty seven EU countries will be its member too. But why are we discussing political unions in an alternative energy site? Because Mediterranean Union will not only tackle various issues such as regional upheavals, trade, counter terrorism, security immigration pollution etc. but the organization will take up the energy issue too.
As usual people are reacting in skeptical manner saying that Sarkozy wants to trade nuclear power expertise with North African gas reserves. But some are thinking in a positive way too, for instance, the possibilities of solar energy generation. They think that the Union can help a lot in trapping the solar potential of the African nations and transferring that energy to Europe. Scientists from the various European countries are planning for a new supergrid on the sharing basis for member states. The supergrid will use new DC (HVDC- high voltage direct current) lines for the transmissions of power over long distances. Energy losses in DC lines are far less than the AC lines. Denmark and UK can export wind energy and Iceland can export geothermal energy whenever they have surplus energy. But the supergrid’s main function would be to send out renewable solar energy from the Saharan desert to Europe. The scientists want to build a series of huge solar farms in the Saharan desert and connect them to the supergrid.
The grid proposal was seconded by Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown. This proposal tries to answer the skeptics who claim that renewable power will never be economically viable because the weather is quite unpredictable. This proposal tries to cancel out that element of unpredictability if the wind is not blowing hard enough in the North Sea, it will be blowing somewhere else in Europe, or the sun will be shining on a solar farm somewhere.
Scientists are enthusiastic about harnessing the Sahara solar rays because the sunlight in this area is more intense: solar photovoltaic (PV) panels in northern Africa could generate up to three times the electricity compared with similar panels in northern Europe. The project will take huge investment in terms of time and money. The estimated cost would be €450 billion. By 2050 scientists are thinking of generating 100 GW from the Saharan desert. Much of the money will be used in developing the infrastructure for grid networks. If high voltage cables between North Africa and Italy would be built or existing cables between Spain and Morocco would be used, the infrastructure of these countries too will need restructuring.