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Power from The Sahara

It sounded like a pipe dream when I first heard about it. Perhaps it still is. However, there seem to be enough people that believe in the idea, and on paper it seems like a good idea. There even seems to be concrete steps towards making it happen.

12 companies today signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Munich to establish a DESERTEC Industrial Initiative (DII). The objective of this initiative is to analyse and develop the technical, economic, political, social and ecological framework for carbon-free power generation in the deserts of North Africa.

The idea is a network of thermal solar power stations in the deserts of North Africa, connected by long distance transmission lines to the consumers of Europe. Its backed by an impressive array of companies.

ABB, ABENGOA Solar, Cevital, Deutsche Bank, E.ON, HSH Nordbank, MAN, Solar Millennium, Munich Re, M+W Zander, RWE, SCHOTT, Solar SIEMENS.

They have a collection of companies representing capital, utilities and solar technology. All of them have their own reasons to want to make this a success. No doubt Munich Re for example, wants to reduce its exposure to climate change insurance claims as well as to make a profit.   

The next step is to set up a company.

The DII planning entity is to be established as a GmbH (limited liability company) under German law by 31 October 2009. It is envisaged that other companies will join the DII once the company has been established. The aim is for the DII to include shareholders from a variety of different countries.  


I am sure that they will get their wish as other companies are more likely to join in as the venture moves forwards. Anyone with a wish to sell solar technology or buy renewable energy, will want to see the venture succeed.

The project has its detractors, who say that we will again be relying on unstable countries for too much energy. True perhaps, but unlike fossil fuels, this is a type of energy that cannot be stored, so the power to turn it off is very limited. It also provide diversification anyway and with more than one interconnector, reduces the power of any one country. Moreover, any country that wants to benefit from investments in this area, will need to demonstrate that they are a suitable environment for those investments, or else be prepared to shell out all the money themselves.