The Saudi Arabia of Solar Power
Turns out it actually is Saudi Arabia:
Sitting in the center of the so-called Sun Belt, the country is part of a vast, rainless region reaching from the western edge of North Africa to the eastern edge of Central Asia that boasts the best solar energy resources on Earth. With the cost of oil skyrocketing, this belt is attracting the attention of a growing number of European leaders, who are embracing an ambitious proposal to harvest this solar energy for their nations.
The irony is inescapable and the story a familiar one, as the developed world again turns to the less developed countries in hopes of powering their economies. More important, it highlights an unappreciated implication of a solar-powered economy: The end of the oil age will not necessarily bring an end to the ugly geopolitics, resource wars and national rivalries that oil created.
How much potential? A lot:
In Hassi R’mel, Algeria, construction has begun on a new power plant using a combination of solar and natural gas. The hope is to generate 150 megawatts of electricity by 2010, with 25 megawatts from a solar array stretching nearly 2 million square feet. The long-term goal is to export more than 6,000 megawatts of solar-generated power to Europe by 2020.
“Our potential in thermal solar power is four times the world’s energy consumption, so you can have all the ambitions you want with that,” Tewfik Hasni, managing director of New Energy Algeria, or NEAL, a company created by the Algerian government in 2002 to develop renewable energy, told the Associated Press last year.
This is why, barring a major technological breakthrough, the economics of solar energy may someday look much like the economics of fossil fuels. Energy security ultimately means more than access to energy; it means access to cheap energy. And like it or not, the Sun Belt has the cheapest solar energy in the world in vast quantities.
In other solar news, solar panel theft is on the rise:
East Bay law enforcement has been seeing a number of solar panel thefts. One industry expert said it was an uncommon crime, but there was a brief spree of thefts six weeks ago throughout the Bay Area.
“The solar panel thing is pretty new,” said Contra Costa County Sherriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee of the thefts. “We’re seeing an increasing number of cases.”
“It’s simple mathematics,” Lee said of the thefts. “There’s money to be made.”
Next thing you know, wind turbines will be disappearing as thieves sell them for scrap. :^0