Saharan Desert to Power Europe in Five Years
As a testament to a truly connected world, already borderless in terms of trade and commerce, sunlight will soon join the ranks of globally imported goods. Collected from Saharan Desert solar panels, the intense, direct sunlight will be transported via underground wiring line called "Transgreen" to supply power to the hungry European homes and businesses. The Destertec plan, that EcoGeek describes as a "large scheme of solar projects in Northern Africa." was unveiled last year, but excitement has been rekindled as just last week, European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger announced that Europe will be powered "within the next five years...This is much sooner, than the initial 10-year time frame given to the project" according to folks at Inhabitat.
The projects are backed by the European Union, who hopes that the imported solar energy will help meet its goal of "deriving 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources in 2020" says Reuters Africa. Writers at EcoGeek report that the steps we will see in five years will start small, but will slowly grow to reach this goal. "The first phase of projects will have a capacity in the hundreds of megawatts, while over the next 20 to 40 years, the capacity will reach hundreds of gigawatts."
According to Inhabitat, it makes sense for the global community to take advantage of this intensely area. "If just one percent of the Saharan Desert were covered in concentrating solar panels it would create enough energy to power the entire world." Destertec's website illustrates just what one percent would look like, the red box appearing tiny compared to the whole of Africa. At first glance, it seems a tiny sacrifice of desert for an enormous gain.
There is some concern, however, that the donor continent will not receive as much credit as it deserves. Reuters Africa quotes Oettinger putting these fears to rest. "Renewables are a two-way partnership because electricity produced here is for the home market of North African countries," he said. "Maybe a bigger percentage of the electricity will be exported to Europe but at the same time we have to export the technology, tools, machines, experts, and so it's a real partnership, not only a partnership by selling and by buying."
Later in the news report, Oettinger looks forward, saying: "Desertec as a whole is a vision for the next 20 to 40 years with investment of hundreds of billions of euros"-an investment that makes the future look mighty bright for both Europe and the worldwide solar community.