Clean Power From Deserts
Probably the single most effective answer to the problem of rising energy costs is to take advantage of the truly monumental quantities of energy falling as sunlight on the world’s deserts:
a.. Every year, each square kilometre of desert receive solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts around the world, this is several hundred times as much energy as the world is now using.
b.. It is possible to tap into this cornucopia using the simple, proven technology of concentrating solar power (CSP). This means using mirrors to concentrate sunlight to create heat and using the heat to raise steam to drive turbines and generators, just like a conventional power station.
c.. With CSP, less than 1% of the world’s deserts could generate as much electricity as the world is now using.
d.. The UK may begin to import solar electricity from North Africa quite soon using existing transmission lines. As quantities of electricity increase, transmission lines may be upgraded.
e.. CSP plants are quick to build and capacities may be ramped up fast.
f.. With heat storage and backup sources of heat, CSP plants can deliver power at any time of the day or night.
g.. Researchers at the German Aerospace Centre have calculated that CSP is likely to become one of the cheapest sources of electricity in Europe, including the cost of transmission.
These “DESERTEC” proposals are underpinned by detailed research at the German Aerospace Centre, the US Department of Energy and elsewhere. Further information may be found at www.desertec.org and www.trec-uk.org.uk.