LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE SUNDAY TIMES BEFORE 2009-06-14
LETTER FOR PUBLICATION
CLEAN POWER FROM DESERTS
Yes, what David MacKay says about the energy potential of deserts is broadly correct ("Could the Sahara’s sun save us?", Sunday Times, 7th June 2009). Using the proven technologies of concentrating solar power (CSP), less than 5% of the world's deserts could produce electricity equivalent to the world's total present energy consumption.
Of course, CSP plants will be used in many places around the world and would not all be put in the Sahara. With low-loss 'HVDC' transmission lines, it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity for 3000 km or more. It has been calculated that 90% of the world's population lives within 2700 km of a desert and may be supplied with clean electricity from there. HVDC supergrids, with smart electronics and load-balancing techniques, provide the means of combining CSP with a range of other renewable sources of electricity -- wind, waves, tidal streams, photovoltaics, hot rocks, hydropower, and more -- to create a resilient system for the supply of clean power.
Apart from cutting emissions of CO2 and other pollutants, CSP (with other renewable sources of power) reduces the need for the infrastructure required for the mining, processing and transportation of fossil fuels or nuclear fuels. Research at the German Aerospace Centre shows that CSP can not only provide plentiful supplies of clean power for people in the Middle East and North Africa but it is likely to become one of the cheapest sources of power throughout Europe, and that includes the cost of transmission.
Dr Gerry Wolff PhD CEng
Coordinator of Desertec-UK
Last updated: 2009-08-20