Clean Power from the Deserts

 → Within 6 hours the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year. This means that sufficient clean power can be generated from the world’s deserts to supply mankind with enough electricity on a sustainable basis. The DESERTEC Concept promotes the large-scale production of solar and wind power in the desert regions of the world, combined with a smart mix of photovoltaics, hydropower, biomass and geothermal energy.

PARABOLIC TROUGH

FRESNEL COLLECTOR

SOLAR TOWER

DESERTEC: clean power for desert regions

The DESERTEC Concept integrates all types of renewable energy: Photovoltaics and concentrated solar power (CSP), wind, geothermal or biomass and hydropower.

However, to accelerate the substitution of fossil fuels and nuclear power by delivering dispatchable power, concentrated solar power is an important technology: Solar energy is concentrated by means of mirrors to heat water. The resulting steam is used to drive conventional turbines for power generation. As heat can be easily stored with low losses, CSP plants are capable of supplying energy on demand – even after sunset. A high share of such dispatchable clean power in the energy mix stabilizes the electricity grid and therefore allows for a greater use of other fluctuating sources such as photovoltaics and wind.

Clean power from deserts shall primarily support the life of the local population and help to generate clean prosperity. Moreover; the sheer abundance and huge potential of clean power from deserts offers great potential to generate prosperity by foreign exchange by delivering clean power to non-desert regions, such as Europe.

DESERTEC: Clean power from deserts for 90% of world's population

Clean power from deserts may clean up Europe and other non-desert regions. Integrating clean power from deserts into the local energy mix, means a faster and more efficient energy transformation (Energiewende) in non-desert countries.

Transmission

The transmission technologies for long-distance transmission of clean power from deserts are available and already in commercial use. Clean power from remote deserts can be transmitted up to 3,000 kilometers to the consumption centres, using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines. 90% of the world’s population lives within a maximum distance of 3,000 km to deserts. With around 2-3% per 1,000 kilometres, the transmission losses are fairly low. China especially is already experienced in the utilization of HVDC transmission lines which can be seen at the 1418 km HVDC line connecting Yunnan and Guangdong.

The transmission of about 15% of clean power from deserts has been the original DESERTEC Vision.

Since new developments have come up the Foundation takes two more options into account:

Power to liquid

Production of electricity in a mix from the above mentioned regenerative power plants and using this energy for the production of liquid fuel via hydrogen by electrolysis and transformation of hydrogen to methanol or – by using the “Fischer-Tropsch- process” – transformation to solid-, liquid- and gas-hydrocarbon; transfer the liquid hydrocarbon by normal oil tankers to European oil harbours; marketing of the liquid hydrocarbon via existing infrastructures as fuel for combustion engines.

Power to gas

Production of electricity in a mix from the above mentioned regenerative power plants and using this energy for the production of biogas via hydrogen by electrolysis and transformation from hydrogen to methane; liquefaction of methane to LBG (liquefied bio gas) and transfer of the LBG by special tank ships to LNC-terminals in Europe; infeed of the LBG into the normal gas pipelines.

What comes next?

From the view of DESERTEC Foundation it is necessary to make for all this opportunities feasibility analysis and after this to initialisation further steps to realize the best way to bring regenerative energy – produced in the desert regions in Northern Africa – to Central Europe. The DESERTEC-Foundation still has worked out specifications for the three opportunities and has ordered an offer for an feasibility analysis for realisation the HVDC-direct-lines by an engineering office.