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Climate change, clean energy

Europe’s Power Problem’s to be solved by Africa?


By Joshua Hill—— Bio and Archives--December 7, 2007

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In a weird turn of events, it looks as if Africa – the continent to be worst hit by global warming and climate changes – could help provide clean energy, to Europe. It is one of those poetic turns that just make you all happy inside.

The project entitled Desertec consists of a string of giant solar power stations along the Mediterranean desert shores of northern Africa and the Middle East. Coupled together with smaller amounts of wind, hydro and geothermal stations the project which would cost more than £5 billion ($10 billion USD) could provide Europe with a sixth of its power requirements.

Thousands of mirrors would make up the solar aspect of this project, and would generate power to be transferred to Europe via undersea cables. The power would then be distributed across the continent, including to areas like Britain.

Naturally, this project which was presented to the European Parliament by Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan last week would help Europe diminish its carbon emissions. Developed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Corporation, the project is supported by engineers and politicians from Europe as well as Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan and other nations in the Middle East and Africa.

The funds for the project would initially be provided by European countries, focusing on the development of solar technology and the construction of prototype stations. After that, banks and financial institutions, as well as national governments, would all take over the construction program. Over the next 30 years, the proposed plan would cost some £200 billion ($415 billion USD).

‘We don’t make enough use of deserts,’ said physicist Gerhard Knies, co-founder of the scheme. ‘The sun beats down on them mercilessly during the day and heats the ground to tremendous temperatures. Then at night that heat is radiated back into the atmosphere. In other words, it is completely wasted. We need to stop that waste and exploit the vast amounts of energy that the sun beams down to us.’

For such a long time, solar energy is known to be a possible savior for the world’s growing energy needs. But finding enough cheap land upon which to erect such power stations is difficult at best. That is why people are turning to northern African countries, where land is cheap due to the temperature.

This plan keeps getting better too, when you consider that the process will involve pumping the superheated steam through tanks of seawater, which would then create freshwater.

‘Essentially you get electricity and fresh water,’ said Knies. ‘The latter is going to be crucial for developing countries round the southern Mediterranean and in North Africa. Their populations are rising rapidly, but they have limited supplies of fresh water. Our solar power plants will not only generate electricity that they can sell to Europe, they will supply drinkable water that will sustain their thirsty populations.’

The only drawback is one that the fossil-fuel proponents continue to live off: the fact that coal is at least half cheaper than this proposed plan. But if the planet is to be sustained past the next century, maybe cost isn’t what we should be worrying about.

Joshua Hill, a Geek’s-Geek from Melbourne, Australia, Josh is an aspiring author with dreams of publishing his epic fantasy, currently in the works, sometime in the next 5 years. A techie, nerd, sci-fi nut and bookworm.



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