The EU is proposing an ambitious plan to cut Europe's carbon emissions by harnessing the power of the North African sun and channelling the resultant electricity through a new super grid carrying DC current.
It has been calculated that an area slightly smaller than Wales could capture enough solar energy to supply all of Europe with carbon free electricity.
Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum, Arnulf Jaeger-Walden of the European commission's Institute for Energy, said it would require the capture of just 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and Middle East deserts to meet all of Europe's energy needs.
The scheme involves a series of huge solar farms - producing electricity through photovoltaic cells and by condensing mirrors to concentre the sun's heat to boil water and drive steam turbines. The resultant electicity would then enter a new
|Proposed European DC Power Grid (source:TREC)|
supergrid, carrying electricity along high voltage direct current cables (which are much more efficient than AC power cables) which would reach as far as the UK and Denmark and also allow more northerly locations to export wind energy back into the grid at times of surplus supply. Much of the cost would be for developing the grid networks of countries in the southern Mediterranean, which are currently not advanced enough to carry the electricity that the solar farms could generate.
The grid proposal has political support from both the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown.
Scientists working on the project admit that it would take many years and huge investment to generate enough solar energy from north Africa to power Europe but envisage that by 2050 it could produce 100 GW, more than the combined electricity output from all sources in the UK, with an investment of around €450bn.
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