The DESERTEC concept towards renewable energy is a golden coin. The potential supply of energy can go far beyond domestic and even continental boundaries. The stupendous mass of energy that is going to be supplied from the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will be an astronomical step towards sustainable supply of green energy at a global dimension.
Critical facts about the DESERTEC concept;
1. Understanding how concentrated solar power plant (CSP) operates
The solar power plant (CSP) works similarly to a coal steam power plant. The only real distinction is that one uses concentrated solar power instead of coal for steam production. Mirrors are positioned in a particular way to assure that rays of lights are reflected and concentrated onto a specific spot. The light is collected and surplus of heat can be stored in tanks to be utilized during nights or off-peak hours.
It is estimated that CSP plants in MENA can generate up to 470, 000 MW by 2050. Moreover, some CPS can be able to produce electricity during both night and day, with the use of heat tanks for a life span of 40 years. The solar panels can also be cooled down with nearby saltwater from the coast. This water can then be desalinated and a 100, 000 m3 of clean drinking water is thereby obtained per day for the local population. Water can even be used for agricultural purposes.
2. The real cost of importing Solar power in 2020.
German Aeropsace Center estimated an approximate of 6.5 c/kWh while the average cost claimed by the industry is 16 c/kWh. The real cost will be determined by location and transmission distances of energy. The cost is likely to fall with advancement in technology. Moreover, the cost on the environment is definitely much lower with solar power than our actual ways of producing electricity.
3. Threats of Solar-thermal power plants in MENA
There are potential threats in the MENA region, ranging from weather conditions, political instability, exploitation of land resources and even dependability on foreign relationships.
Natural weather conditions are only estimated to be a minor wear and tear cost. There are solar-thermal power plants in the Mojave Desert, which have survived 20 years during sandstorms, cyclones and hailstorms. There are possibilities to anticipate danger related with the rotation of solar panels through proper positioning. The cost of wear and tear due to weather conditions is estimated to be only 0.4%. Modern maintenance is even reducing this cost to even a less significant figure.
The threat of dependability is another major issue. It is estimated that by year 2050 Europe will import 17 % solar power energies. 65% will be produced through local renewable energies and 18% through fossil backup and top-loaded power plants. This gives rise to the dilemma of pipeline deficiency that is present in the supply of gas through pipelines in Ukraine. What will the consequence of abrupt supply disturbances have on the price of energy? The likely consequences have already been anticipated for the short-term. A safety margin of 25% of reserve of energy will be withheld for emergencies in the EU zone. This implies that the European supply of energy is able to cope as much as 125% of total demand; this will fully anticipate the total dependency on import if the need arises.
Political instability is catered for by having a 25% reserve capacity. Moreover, there is a constant progress in mutual relationships at an international basis. This trend is likely to grow further to handle issues such as renewable energy, resources allocation and socio-economic developments. DESERTEC Foundation affirms that political instability will be a forgotten issue as the countries move into the phase of economic transition of becoming more modern and sophisticated.
Is land really an issue? Solar-thermal power plants will require with the actual state of technology 2,500 sq km of desert surface for the solar power plants. Moreover, an additional 3,500 sq km will be required for transmission lines into the Europe – Middle East – North Africa region. The total surface area of 6000 sq km will be enough to supply 17% of Europe requirements in year 2050. This is less than the Nasser reservoir that is found in Egypt. The reservoir supplies only 3 GW of electric power whereas the solar-thermal power plants will provide 100 gigawatts (GW) of electric power. Solar energy is the most compact source of energy. Moreover, the land utilization can also be drastically reduced by using underground cabling.
4. Solar Power
The key point of using solar power is that it is in theory unlimited. The favourable advancement in technology is making it even easier to extract. In economic terms, the sun is considered as a ‘free good’, there is no competition, depletion of resources or natural destruction involved in using free goods. It is thereby among the most suitable ways to generate renewable energy.
Moreover, our limited store of natural resources such as uranium, gas and oil can be better distributed. Alteration can be introduced to the transport sector; there could be a rise of greener solutions, which would reduce the emission of toxic gases.
The rise of horizontal integration and investment in countries will also decrease dependency. The import of solar energy from the MENA region will balance dependency on other import such as from Ukraine. It will provide a more balanced and diversified dependency on different nations instead of solely one. This implies that there are always alternatives available if quandary arises.
The global perspective of investing in the Solar Energy gives rise to unfolded benefits. Investing and developing renewable energy in the MENA region will resolve local conflicts. The solar panels will not only establish ground to deal with contemporary conflict issues such as scarcity of water and energy. It will also give the desert a value through its potentially vast possession of power and water sources. This is also supplemented with transfer of know-how and employment to people for the construction of CPS and HVDC transmission lines.
DESERTEC concept is a role model for the advanced world. It focuses on a holistic approach to generate two fundamental needs; energy and water from unused lands in the desert. The project apart from being eco-friendly is also economically rewarding based on various analyses of cost and revenues.