Desertec Solar Project

400 Billion Euros for the Mediterranean Energy Network

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted June 30, 2009

With unlimited natural resources and growing interest from Europe's biggest businesses, the Desertec plan for cultivating African and Middle Eastern solar power is gaining steam.

Steam's the thing, as it turns out, that will bring concentrating solar power from desert-based trough-shaped collectors that heat water, which turns turbines, which then feed to long high-voltage direct current (HVDC) lines across the Mediterranean.

The goal is to bring a major energy option to top European energy consumers while stimulating economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Desertec map

MENA solar resources could, according to the European Commission, fulfill all of Europe's electricity needs with just 0.3% of the sunny region's annual solar radiation.

And by focusing on concentrating solar power (CSP), which is already in use in U.S. states like California and Nevada, Desertec would not be reinventing the wheel, or the panel.

The question of utmost importance, with the world of renewable energy finance still reeling from the credit crunch, is where the money will come from to finance such a massive project...

To that end, international commercial mammoths like Siemens (NYSE:SI) and E.ON (OTC:EONGY) are leading a German consortium that can make Desertec a reality.

For them it's a matter of business sense, getting the jump on other European and global power players while pleasing European governments and the European Commission, all of which are eager for an alternative to Russian natural gas. Not only solar but wind, biomass, and geothermal will all be part of Desertec's Trans-Mediterranean energy mix.

In July, we'll see the first concrete steps by 20 top German companies to get the 400 billion-euro ($561 billion) project up and running. A meeting is set for July 13 in Munich.

You can read more about Desertec's geographic and political basis here on our sister site, Energy and Capital.

Sam Hopkins