Monday, 14 December 2009

Solar Power Plans, Europe, China, India, Africa and Beyond

Energy from the Sahara plants is expected to supply Europe by 2015. A huge solar project in the Sahara desert has been announced by a consortium of 12 European businesses.

The first stage will be to build massive solar energy fields across North Africa's Sahara desert, utilising concentrated solar power technology (CPS), which uses parabolic mirrors to focus the Sun's rays on containers of water. The super-heated water will power steam turbines to generate electricity 24 hours a day, 52 weeks of the year. The electricity will then be transported great distances to Europe, using hi-tech cables that suffer little conductive loss of power, a loss of 3 percent per 1,000 kilometers. Some of the 20 gigawatts used in Africa also.

Africa also has a fantastic wind resource, with huge potential to put wind farms along the North African coast. Winds created by the Sun heating the air are especially strong during the summer, when European wind turbines, including those in Britain, are at their least productive.

The concept was first announced in 2007 by the Desertec Foundation, with small pilot projects based in North Africa. Companies signed up to the consortium include ABB, Abengoa Solar, Cevital, HSH Nordbank, MAN Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE and Schott Solar. Its a snip at $564 billion.

Meanwhile China plans to achieve the goal of 20 million kWh of installed solar power capacity in 2020, said Liang Zhipeng, head of the new and renewable energy division of China's State Energy Bureau. The goal is over 10 times the target set by the government two years ago. Its estimated that by 2020, China's renewable energy use will be equivalent to 800 million tons of standard coal, or one third of China's current annual energy consumption. By then, China will be able to reduce carbon dioxide emission by 1.8 billion tons annually.

Although India has virtually no solar power now, they have plans; and envisage the country generating 20GW from sunlight by 2020. Global solar capacity is predicted to be 27GW by then, according to the International Energy Agency, meaning India expects to be producing 75% of this within just 10 years!

I have been to the Almeria Solar Platform (PSA) is a European test facility center developed by the CIEMAT Spanish Center for Energy, Environment and Technological Research, devoted to the development of concentrating solar technologies in Spain. Spain has built further plants in Seville (11 megawatt), another in Granada, and is building more.

There are even ideas on Space based solar power, as different projects aimed at beaming energy to Earth from orbit begin to take shape.

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