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The Low Carbon Economy Ltd

17 Jun 2009 09:06:02

Leading German companies join for north African solar project



Leading German companies join for north African solar project
Some of Germany's largest commercial enterprises are joining forces to fund an ambitious scheme to provide Europe with electricity harnessed from solar panels in north Africa.

Munich Re, Siemens, Deutsche Bank, RWE and E.ON are among the firms that have put their names next to plans to form a renewable energy consortium next month, according to the Guardian.

The joint initiative, which would be the largest industrial solar energy project anywhere in the world, could require as much as EU400 billion (£338 billion) of financing, the newspaper reported.

Torsten Jeworrek, board member of reinsurance giant Munich Re, said: "We want to found an initiative which over the next two to three years will put concrete measures on the table."

Deserts in Africa are seen as the Holy Grail for solar energy, with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis claiming earlier this year that panels covering a fraction of the Sahara could power the entire of Europe.

The German initiative will make used of CSP (concentrating solar power), which involves using large mirrors to focus the sun's rays in order to heat water into steam and drive turbines.

Last month, a report conducted by Greenpeace International in association with the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and IEA SolarPaces suggested that CSP could provide a quarter of the world's energy by 2050.

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Discussion Thread  

Nick C wrote:

18 Jun 2009



First question – is this a valid claim?
The EU average power demand is of order of 400GW. Converting all land transport to electric would require about 30% increase in power plus some expansion say 750GW capacity (average) required.
1 sq-m of CPV solar panel in N-Africa could provide about 125W power so 750GW needs ~6,000 Million sq-m of panels = 6,000 sq-Km ~=0.07% of Sahara (~9million sq-Km)
Ans YES

Second Question – Could it be done?
Assume we can produce solar panels on the same scale as cars. A rough estimate is the resources to build 1 car could produce at least 20sq-m of solar panels. World produces about 50million+ cars per year, assume Europe takes 20% so panel production would be 0.2 x 50M x 20 = 200Million sq-m/y, therefore 6,000 Million sq-m requirement would be met by about 2040 (~30yrs)
Ans Probably YES

Notes:
Technology - CPV has been used for example as it has highest collecting efficiency, currently greater than 35% of incident solar energy converted to electricity.
Costs – major cost is cells, @ 10/sq-m @ ~$10/cell
Disadvantages - No built in storage, requires direct sunshine ( not a problem in Sahara)
Land use – Above scenario is based on tracking CPV on about 4:1spacing of CPV panel arrays to optimise daily energy collection, desert is much cheaper than solar panels.




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