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Solar energy to power Europe

29 July 2008

Concentrating solar power plants (CSP) are being proposed in North Africa. These plants will generate electricity either through photovoltaic cells, or by concentrating the sun's energy, resulting in boiling water, driving turbines. The solar farms will be situated within the Sahara desert and will capture so much solar energy from the desert sun that it may be able to supply the whole of Europe with sustainable electricity.

Solar energy to power Europe
Solar energy to power Europe

Scientists at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona believe the farms may only need to catch as little as 0.3% of the light falling in the Sahara and Middle East deserts to achieve this goal.

The supergrid will transmit electricity along direct current cables that result in far lower energy losses than alternating current cables, with energy losses being 3% per 1000km, making the transmission of energy over long distances more economical.

CSPs will be more effective in Northern Africa than the current plants in Spain as the African photovoltaic panels could generate three times as much electricity and African weather is more predictable. Consequently, the proposal is being supported by both Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown.

It will take many years for the North African CSPs to generate enough solar power to power Europe but it is believed that by 2050 it could produce 100 GW, more than the combined electricity output from all sources in the UK, with an investment of around €450bn.

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