ARABIAN DESERT SOLAR: BETTER THAN RUSSIAN GAS VIA GEORGIA
A U.S. Army study done in the early 1990s, after the first Gulf War, came to an unsurprising conclusion: Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar energy.
The Saudis are the buckle on the Eastern Hemisphere’s sun belt, a region – said to have the best solar resources on earth – that runs from the western edge of North Africa to the eastern edge of Central Asia.
The idea of harvesting Middle Eastern sun and delivering it to Europe via a trans-Mediterranean cable, based on German research studies, had been slowly, quietly gaining popularity since it was first presented in 2003. This summer it was endorsed by the leaders of France and the UK and was a major focus at the July 2008 first meeting of a new organization, Union for the Mediterranean. But the idea still seemed a little grandiose and ambitious to most.
Then Georgia invaded South Ossetia and Russia invaded Georgia and suddenly everybody who had been advocating the idea went from dreamer to visionary. Building a cable across the Mediterranean suddenly seemed not only practical but a lot more practical than building pipelines that make Europe more dependent on Russian-controlled natural gas.
One scientist estimates it would take only 0.4% of the solar energy that falls on the sun belt to provide all of Europe’s electricity. That leaves a lot of room for the vagaries of intermittency.
Guess who else likes the idea.
Ali al-Nuaimi, Oil Minister, Saudi Arabia: " One of the research efforts that we are going to undertake is to see how we make Saudi Arabia a center for solar energy research...over the next 30 to 50 years..."
Minister al-Nuaimi is in for a surprise if he really thinks this is going to wait that long.
But there is every reason to believe al-Nuaimi is being a little coy. He understands the economics of energy pretty well.
Minister al-Nuaimi: "In the same way we are an oil exporter…we can also be an exporter of power."
The sunbelt is easy to spot: Look for red. (click to enlarge)
The Saudi Arabia of Solar Energy
William Pentland, August 22, 2008 (Forbes)
The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC); Club of Rome; Union for the Mediterranean
TREC is leading the effort to incentivize the development of solar power plants and other New Energy sources throughout the Eastern Hemisphere’s “sunbelt” and the development of a “supergrid” connecting the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.
Europe now prefers the expense of building this...(click to enlarge)
- 2007: Prince El Hassan of Jordan called for an Aollo-like project to implement TREC’s plan.
- July 2008: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown publicly endorsed the supergrid concept.
- August 2008: Georgia invaded South Ossetia and Russia invaded Georgia.
- 2010: An Algerian combined cycle natural gas/solar power plant will be generating 150 megawatts of electricity.
- 2025 TREC goal: 6,000 megawatts of solar-generated power flowing to Europe.
- The Eastern Hemisphere’s “sun belt” runs from the western edge of North Africa to the eastern edge of Central Asia. and is said to have the best solar energy resources on Earth.
- Hassi R'mel, Algeria, 260 miles south of Algiers: Construction has begun on a combination of solar and natural gas power plant.
- The Eastern Hemisphere’s “sun belt” is said to have the best solar energy resources on Earth.
- The desert nations of the sun belt also see the development of New Energy as a source of power with which to desalinate sea water, a very important consideration in light of looming worldwide drought.
- Little has been done beyond planning with the concepts of sun belt solar power plants and the supergrid but Russia’s further exertion of its control over natural gas supplies to Europe makes development much more likely.
- The combined cycle Algerian plant will have a 25-megawatt solar capacity.
...to the dangers of dealing with this. (click to enlarge)
- Ali al-Nuaimi, Oil Minister, Saudi Arabia: "For a country like Saudi Arabia ... one of the most important sources of energy to look at and to develop is solar energy… "
- Tewfik Hasni, managing director, New Energy Algeria (NEAL): "Our potential in thermal solar power is four times the world's energy consumption, so you can have all the ambitions you want with that…"