Here’s a bold plan for renewable energy: 12 European companies are going to work together to build the world’s largest solar farm in Northern Africa.
The project will be called Desertec. The electricity it generates will not travel south to Africa, instead it will head north to Europe, with the dreamy ambition of providing 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050. The total cost of the project is a jaw dropping $560 billion (€400 Billion).
How are they going to pay for the project? Right now, the Desertec Foundation, a consortium of the players involved, is taking Paypal donations on its website–seriously. In the long run, the European government along with many of the companies involved will be financing the project.
The group plans on spending the next 3 years assembling a business plan to figure out how to make this crazy scheme a reality. Amongst the companies involved are Deutsche Bank, E.ON, RWE and Siemens.
Der Spiegel sat down with the CEO of Siemens, Peter Löscher to talk about the project, here’s an excerpt:
SPIEGEL: Some experts have said they think it’s not economical to transport solar power to Europe through huge distribution grids under the Mediterranean Sea.
Löscher: Energy superhighways can be both technologically efficient and economical. A few years ago we connected Tasmania with the Australian continent. And from 2011 there will be a 250-kilometer undersea cable supplying Majorca with electricity from the Spanish mainland. For us, this kind of thing is now part of our core business.
SPIEGEL: Critics have complained that the governments of the many African nations where the project is being developed have not been consulted.
Löscher: Such oases of energy are a huge opportunity for Africa — and for every other region with enough sunshine hours. When capital, competence and resources from several different countries come together, it is advantageous for all those taking part. Besides, representatives from Arab states and from Africa are substantially involved.
SPIEGEL: Your own company made solar cells until 2002, after which you sold that part of the business. A big mistake?
Löscher: At that time Siemens was pulling out of the cyclic semi-conductor business — that is, mainly silicon chips and microchips for computers as well as solar cells. We stayed in the field of photovoltaics (the field of converting solar energy into electricity). In the future we will be bigger players in the area of solar power again.
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