Did you know that within six hours the world’s deserts receive more energy than humankind consumes within a year? How awesome would it be to be able to tap into all that potential, clean energy? The DESERTEC foundation – a European non-profit organization – hopes to do exactly that.
DESERTEC’s goal is to harness renewable energies where they are most abundant – such as solar energy in the deserts – and transmit it, with the help of High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines, over thousands of kilometers to the consumption centers of the world.
The key technologies for sufficiently and sustainably powering the world with desert energy have already been used successfully for several years. The foundation relies on concentrated solar power plants (CSP) that work by concentrating sunlight with the help of mirrors and then use the heat for steam production. The major advantage of the technology in comparison to photovoltaics is that a part of the sun’s heat can be collected in heat storage tanks and then used at night or during peak hours.
DESERTEC calls itself a “holistic concept”, “combining energy security and climate protection with fresh water generation, socio-economic development, security policy and international cooperation”. Since most of the deserts in the world are located in less developed regions like the Middle East and Africa, the foundation hopes to have a positive economic impact in these areas by attracting investments and creating jobs.
Building the plants and the grid will require political will and billions of euros. Policy frameworks to allow for international trade with clean power are needed. According to Katrin- Susanne Richter, the director of the DESERTEC foundation, the investment is well worth it. She believes that if we hope to satisfy the rising global energy demand with clean energy we’re going to need a big supersmart grid with international integration of renewable energies.
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