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)
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
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.