Transmission is a hot topic in Europe as well. The newly formed Mediterranean Union - created to promote cooperation among the nations bordering the Mediterranean region - is considering the idea of a "Super Energy Grid" that would link Africa and Europe. It would connect geothermal energy in Iceland, biomass power in Poland and solar power in the Sahara. The "smartness" of the grid would allow countries to export the power when they have an abundance of it and import when there's an energy shortage.
So how much renewable energy is really needed to make this plan work? The European Commission's Institute for Energy has said that 0.3 percent of the sunlight from the Sahara and the Middle East could power all of Europe. An Institute spokesperson, Arnulf Jaeger-Walden, explained:
If you can connect the grid to hydro power, you've got that as a backup battery, and in addition there's wind. It's not a single source that's providing the energy but a combination of the different renewable energies.Africa gets a good deal out of this too. By using solar thermal generators instead of typical photovoltaic panels, the solar power plants could be used also as desalination facilities to provide clean drinking water and irrigation. Not to mention the job creation from the more than $60 billion dollars it would take to create the grid.
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Sarkozy of France have voiced support of the idea. NGOs like Greenpeace are also supportive. Undersea cables to Sicily and Spain are planned for construction by 2012 and Algeria has started work on a solar plant for 2010. The entire project still has plenty of funding and technical challenges and it's not going to be built tomorrow, but it's terrifically encouraging that world leaders are seriously discussing such a project AND that some of the groundwork is being constructed. We should make our elected officials and energy companies take notice.
via Celsias and the Guardian
Graphic credit: Celsias