FAQ: The most frequent questions
Short Answer: A foundation for promoting Energy from the Deserts
Desertec is a foundation that promotes the use of Energy from the Deserts. The deserts of the earth have the potential to cover the energy consumption of humanity many times. It is an energy source that is scalable and can bring sustainable energy and therefore a sustainable parth out of poverty.
Short Answer: Informing, Lobby, Projects
The recipe for success consists of three ingredients: Informing, Lobby, as well as real projects. Everyone knows Photovoltaic and Wind Power, while the advantages of placing those in the Desert as well as the crucial technology of Solarthermal-Plants is largely unknown. Additionally the legal framework has to be optimized to allow Energy from the Deserts to be traded across borders. The foundation also supports the concrete realization of projects.
Short Answer: Experts from Academia, Economics, Politics and NGOs
The foundation has a Supervisory Board and Board of Directors as well as a Network of Advisors filled with Experts from Academia, Economics, Politics and NGOs. A broader network of people including contacts to federal governments, EU-Institutions and the UN, science associations and private sector institutions (Fonds, Rating-Agencies, Insurance-Companies, Suppliers and Project Agencies). We lay a huge focus on exchanges with NGOs and Scientists.
Short Answer: Projects have been limited to Africa, Lobby for Nuclear and Fossil Fuels, Lack of technical expertise
In Africa Desertec, together with many other organizations, has already promoted the idea of Energy from the Deserts quite successfully: Solar Parks have been installed in many countries, replacing the coal plants that were originally planned to be built there. The Idea of roof-top-solar also benefits many people, especially in remote areas.
The slow energy transition of Europe sadly could not benefit from the Deserts yet. Many politicians and businessmen simply have not yet heard of the Desertec Vision. The energy market is one of the most regulated and subsidized markets in the world, where the French President is lobbying for Nuclear Energy and a former German Chancellor is helping Russia to sell fossil fuels. In this politically charged environment, the cheap price tag of Energy from the Deserts is sadly not enough.
Short Answer: Every good idea needs a Lobby
Long term the extremely cheap energy from the Desert will spread. But due to the climate crisis, we have an extremely tight time frame. We simply do not have the luxury of time to wait patiently until every business and government has heard of the Desertec Concept. Given how many pseudo-solutions get extreme media coverage (Fusion and NextGen-Nuclear) we have to make sure that serious plans get promoted as well. In the competition of good ideas, only those can win, who have been heard.
Short Answer: Transport Hydrogen by Ship, Many Countries with Deserts
There are too many countries with Deserts to form a monopole. The North African Coast alone has five countries and there is also the Option to build plants in the most southern tip of European Countries or Israel.
Shipment of Hydrogen is possible as well. Then access to so many countries is possible, especially Chile and Australia, where the solar irradiance is the highest in the world.
Short: A Solarplant that can produce electricity even during the night
A Solarthermal plant, often called CSP-Plant (Concentrated Solar Power), is a classical thermal plant with a steam turbine and a generator. The big difference to coal is the method of producing the steam: the intense heat of the sunlight.
Short Answer: No, Wind and PV have advantages too
No! The desert offers several good options for energy production including wind and photovoltaics in addition to solar thermal plants.
Each technology offers different advantages.
Short Answer: Not a problem
The majority of the Sahara desert is covered with gravel or rocks, not sand. Therefore sandstorms are rare in the regions chosen for plants. If a storm occurs, the mirrors are moved into a protective position.
Short Answer: Robustness is easy to achieve
Thousands of mirrors concentrate the sunlight either towards a central tower or at pipes in parabolic lines. Reduced efficiency of the mirrors can be compensated by increasing the number of mirrors. This allows the engineers to put more focus on the robust design on the mirror rather than to achieve ultra high precision. The effort to clean the mirrors is minimal as well.
Short Answer: Via a transmission line or via ship as hydrogen
Electricity can be transmitted with less than 10 % losses. This is achieved through high-voltage-direct-current-transmission (HVDC). These cables already connect islands to the mainland grid.
Another alternative is to produce hydrogen on site and transport it (or chemical energy carriers derived from hydrogen) to the desired destination.
Short Answer: Very reliable due to several security measures
CSP-Plants are one of the most reliable sources of baseline supply available. Thermal storage allows for electricity production even at night. Gas Firing (with biogas or hydrogen) serves as an emergency back up for extreme conditions. Since CSP-Plants are classical thermal plants, they produce a reliable pure sine wave output with the desired voltage and frequency.
Short Answer: No, the plants are cooled with air
Both Photovoltaic- and windparks occasionally use small amounts of water for cleaning purposes. The CSP-Plants use huge amounts of water for cooling. Thanks to the available space the modern cooling systems can use air-cooling to recycle the water. The waste heat can even desalinate seawater.
Short Answer: Same as in Europe, but with a higher output
Sadly, almost all means of power production require large amounts of steel, concrete, plastic and other less ecofriendly materials. The focus is therefore on using these materials as efficient as possible. A solarplant in the Sahara is capeable of producing the same power with far less solar cells, than a plant in Europe, therefore saving lots of materials. Especially CSP-Plants can reduce the need for battery storage therefore massivly reducing the materials required for the energy transition.
Short Answer: Enough space to move out the way
All construction projects pose an incersion into the natural habitat. Minimising the negative impact is key. The desert is only scarcely populated and very, very big. This makes it easier to avoid vital ecosystems.
Short answer: Mostly fly on predictable routes
Due to the migration of birds, the Sahara is a vital habitat for many birds. Luckily, these birds focus on oasis and the main routes can be taken into account much easier. Both CSP-Plants and windparks can injure and kill birds. Methods on how deter birds from comming close to these facilities are constantly improved. Compared to cars, windows, house cats and especially agriculture these structures harm a small amount of birds.
Short Answer: The difference is small
Facilities can decrease the Albedo of the area, but both the area covered and the change compared to bare rock is small. There have been some clickbait headlines that claim that the plants can even worsen the climate crisis. These studies focus on the effect that covering the ENTIRE Sahara with Photovoltaics would have. Nobody plans a project of this size, as this would be an absolute overkill in energy production.