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Kick-start and upgrade

How countries throughout Europe may benefit soon from "clean power from deserts".

Countries throughout Europe may begin to benefit quite soon from CSP imports. It is not necessary to wait until the HVDC supergrid has been built.

A "kick-start and upgrade" strategy would work like this:

  1. Kick-start the Desertec scenario by building CSP plants in southern Europe and in MENA and transmit the solar electricity throughout EUMENA using existing transmission lines.
  2. As the quantities of electricity increase (or in anticipation of those increases), upgrade the transmission grid:
    • By removing bottlenecks.
    • By installing smart electronics (eg "FACTS" technologies).
    • By converting existing HVAC transmission lines to HVDC.
    • By installing new HVDC transmission lines.

It is feasible to kick-start the Desertec scenario using existing transmission lines because, in some respects, a transmission grid is like a lake or pond: it is possible to put water in at one end of a lake and take the same amount of water out at the other end so that, in effect, the water has been transmitted from one end to the other without it being necessary to move it all that distance. Applied to an HVAC transmission grid, this analogy means that it should be possible to “transfer” electricity over a long distance with much smaller losses than if the electricity had to travel the entire distance. More generally, it means greater security of supplies because there would be less dependence on the integrity of long-distance transmission lines. The main difference between a transmission grid and a lake is that the grid has a relatively small storage capacity. These things are described and discussed on our page about the cascading principle.

In some respects, a transmission grid is like a lake. Water (electricity) may be added at one place and the same amount may be taken out at another place without it being necessary to move that quantity of water (electricity) all the way from one place to the other. Solar electricity fed into southern Europe can have an immediate benefit for countries throughout Europe.

The end result of the upgrade process is likely to be an HVDC supergrid, much as envisaged in the TRANS-CSP report. But the advantages of the kick-start and upgrade strategy are:

  • Providing there is a single market for electricity throughout EUMENA (or, at least, in Europe),note1 it would mean that customers throughout EUMENA could begin to benefit from CSP electricity as soon as the plants have been built. It would not be necessary to wait until new HVDC lines had been built.note2
  • This would give greater confidence to business people and investors, giving them more incentive to build the CSP plants.
  • It would also provide a commercial incentive to upgrade the existing grid by removing bottlenecks, by installing FACTS technologies, by converting HVAC lines to HVDC and by adding new HVDC lines.

If countries throughout EUMENA can begin to benefit from Desertec on relatively short timescales, this would be helpful to commercial and domestic consumers in those countries and it would be helpful to politicians trying to ensure that there are sufficient supplies of electricity, trying to meet agreed targets for renewable energy, and trying meet agreed targets for reductions in CO2 emissions.

note1 Both the European Commission and the UK government are in favour of a single market for electricity throughout Europe and that single market is taking shape now. It would be good to see it extended to the whole of EUMENA.

note2 It would, of course, be necessary to ensure that the interests of local people in host countries are protected, perhaps by ensuring that they have first call on supplies of solar electricity and at reasonable prices.

Last updated: 2009-10-09 (ISO 8601)