Sahara Solar Panels Can Power the Entire Europe
Constructing a large array of solar panels in the Sahara desert can provide enough electricity to supply all the power needs of the entire Europe, a research expert said this week.
“It [North Africa] could supply Europe with all the energy it needs,” Dr. Anthony Patt, a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, in Austria, told scientists at this week’s climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. “The Sun is very strong there and it is very reliable.
He said that falling costs combined with recent technological advances has made it realistic to consider North Africa as Europe’s main source of imported energy.
“There is starting to be a growing number of cost estimates of both wind and concentrated solar power for north Africa… that start to compare favorably with alternative technologies. The cost of moving [electricity] long distances has really come down.”
Dr. Patt estimated that only a fraction of the Sahara, probably the size of a small country, needed to be covered with panels in order to extract enough energy to supply the whole of Europe.
Sunshine in the Sahara, according to Patt, is twice as strong as in Spain and is a constant resource rarely blocked by clouds, even in winter.
The scheme would use mirrors to focus the sun’s rays on to a thin pipe containing either water or salt. The rays would then boil the water or melt the salt and the resulting energy would power turbines.
Unlike wind power, which usually has to be used immediately because of the cost of storing the electricity generated, the hot water and salt can be stored for several hours.
Patt warned that significant hurdles remain that will have to be conquered.
He said that such a plan would likely face opposition from local communities across Europe who would not take kindly to having transmission cables installed near their homes. He also said that significant government backing, to the tune of nearly $70 billion, would be needed in order for the idea to become a reality.