Genesis Morocco: Desertec

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Genesis Morocco

Project Genesis is a strategic sustainable development framework for Morocco to translate from being a net importer of energy and a country facing water shortage issues, into the number one producer both of clean renewable energy and water in the region.

Saturday, July 19, 2008    <<Home


The Situation
According to general opinion, by the middle of the 21st century, humanity will have used up a majority of the fossil fuel resources available on Earth (with the exception of coal) to meet the demands of power plants and vehicles (see also Peak Oil). A noticeable reduction in worldwide demands for fossil fuels is not in sight, although such a reduction is essential to contain the threat of Global Warming (see also IPCC). A small reduction in demand, would merely postpone the day when fossil fuels run out.

A shift to renewable forms of energy can be a long-term solution to looming problems of energy shortages and damage to the environment. Here the situation in Europe is: Even though the continent offers great potential for wind, hydro, geothermal and solar power, the utilization of these sources of energy has a range of limitations in Europe, densely populated as it is. When the renewable sources of Europe and The Middle East/North-Africa were combined, the EU-MENA region would be in a much improved position to shift to clean and secure energy rapidly and economically.

Three Studies by DLR

TREC was founded with the goal of providing clean energy for Europe and for sunbelt countries quickly and economically through a cooperation between the countries of EU-MENA. Power from deserts, as a supplement to European sources of renewable energy, can speed up the process of cutting European emissions of CO2 and it can help to increase the security of European energy supplies. At the same time, it can provide self supply with electricity, jobs, earnings, drinking water and an improved infrastructure for people in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

TREC has been involved in the conduct of three studies which have evaluated the potential of renewables in MENA, the expected needs for water and power in EU-MENA between now and 2050 and the potential for an electricity transmission grid connecting the EU with MENA (a EU-MENA-Connection).
Those three studies were commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conversation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and have been conducted by theGerman Aerospace Center (DLR). The ‘MED-CSP’ study was produced in 2005 and the ‘TRANS-CSP’ study was completed in 2006. The ‘AQUA-CSP’ study about the needs, the potential and the consequences of solar desalination in MENA was completed in 2007.
Satellite-based studies by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) have shown that, using less than 0.3% of the entire desert areas of the MENA region, solar thermal power plants can generate enough electricity and desalinated seawater to supply current demands in EU-MENA, and anticipated increases in those demands in the future. Harnessing the winds in Morocco and on land around the Red Sea would generate additional supplies of electricity. Solar and wind power can be distributed in MENA and transmitted via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines to Europe with transmission losses that would be no more than 10-15%. Countries like Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia have already shown an interest in this kind of cooperation.

The Technologies

The best solar power technology for providing secure power output is solar thermal power plants (also called Concentrating Solar Thermal Power, CSP). They use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and create heat which is used to raise steam to drive steam turbines and electricity generators. Excess heat from additional collectors can be stored in tanks of molten salt and used to power steam turbines during the night or when there is a peak in demand. In order to ensure uninterrupted service during overcast periods or bad weather (without the need for expensive backup plants), the turbines can also be powered by oil, natural gas or biomass fuels. Waste heat from the power-generation process may be used (in cogeneration) to desalinate seawater and to generate thermal cooling – useful by-products that can be a great benefit to the local population.
Using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines, loss of power during transmission can be limited to only about 3% per 1000 km. The high solar radiation in the deserts of MENA (twice that in Southern Europe), outweighs by far the 10-15% transmission losses between MENA and Europe. This means that solar thermal power plants in the deserts of MENA are more economical than the same kinds of plants in Southern Europe. Although hydrogen has in the past been proposed as an energy vector, this form of transmission is very much less efficient than HVDC transmission lines.
The technologies that are needed to realise the DESERTEC concept are already developed and some of them have been in use for decades. HVDC transmission lines up to 3 GW capacity have been deployed over long distances by ABB and Siemens for many years. In July 2007 Siemens accepted a bid to build a 5 GW HVDC System in China. At the World Energy Dialogue 2006 in Hanover speakers from both the companies just mentioned have confirmed that the implementation of a Euro-Supergrid and a EU-MENA-Connection is, technically, entirely feasible.
Solar thermal power plants have been in use commercially at Kramer Junction in California since 1985. New solar thermal power plants with a total capacity of more than 2000 MW are either planned, under construction, or already in operation. The Spanish government guarantees a feed-in tariff of about 26 EuroCent/kWh for 25 years and this has established favourable business conditions for CSP. Because of the higher solar radiation at good sites in the USA or MENA it is now possible to use lower rates in feed-in tariffs. The DLR has calculated that, if solar thermal power plants were to be constructed in large numbers in the coming decades, the estimated cost would come down to about 4-5 EuroCent/kWh.

In order to establish, by 2050, a capacity of 100 GW of exportable solar power in MENA, over and above the domestic needs of sun-belt countries, only a few governmental supporting measures would be sufficient to make the construction of the power plants and the necessary transmission grid more attractive to investors, both private and public. An approximate investment forecast for the TRANS-CSP scenario has been researched by the DLR (graphic on the following site).

//Interesting solar thermal power plants seem to be low tech...