29 April 2008

Can You See the Tiny Dots On the Map?

The dots cover the land area necessary to provide the current energy needs of the human world, given only 8% energy efficiency of the solar to electricity process used. Solar thermal gets about 30% efficiency, and most photovoltaics get close to 10% or more.Solar thermal energy is an abundant resource most constant and plentiful in the near-equatorial desert regions of the world--such as North Africa. Europeans hungry for more energy are looking south to the African desert for electricity that may allow Europe to limp forward despite a suicidal KyotoII gesture being pushed forward by EU bureaucrats.

A small modular solar thermal plant such as this might produce roughly 25 MW of electrical power. If you could also utilise the waste heat from the plant, your total energy production including useful heat would at least double.

A large power grid spanning huge distances of North Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and parts of Europe, would allow the abundant solar resource of the Sahara to be exploited by wealthier and more productive Europeans to the north.H/T Treehugger (from Spiegel) via Peswiki

Excerpted from Al Fin Energy

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5 Comments:

Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

It is fascinating to see the land requirement in this manner since one can easily imagine dividing those dots up, spreading them out in the desert regions (bringing North African production closer to both the North African coastal cities and potential cables to Europe) until they are invisible on a map of this scale. There would still be lots of room for meeting future energy needs as other nations develop.

A chain of such plants across the bottom of the Sahara could give energy to sub-Saharan nations and provide added productivity to nations which are overly dependent on subsistence agriculture and pastoral economies. Power stations at the edges of these deserts might be able to provide some logistical support to agencies who are constructing green belts and communication water resource management tips between locals (like digging and mulching pits to keep scant rain water in the area or planting trees just after the rainy season when the surface is already drying out so that tree roots are forced to grow deeper). Power sales would be the primary motivate while having the benefit of increasing the amount of land producing biomass in the form of agriculture or wild grassland. Other energy producers might see green belts as both a means of holding back the desert and a source of cellulose for biofuels.

Tuesday, 29 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Many of the nations that are richest in solar potential are impoverished in general. If Europeans are willing to pay for the solar access, the new industry could potentially trigger an overall improvement in the local ecology and quality of life in the Sahara region.

Dependence on third world electricity might be as risky as dependence on third world oil, however.

With large scale immigration into Europe from North Africa, the two Mediterranean regions are slowly merging. Islamic fundamentalism is the main fly in the ointment.

Wednesday, 30 April, 2008  
Blogger Snake Oil Baron said...

Dependence on third world electricity is something to be concerned about but with the number of deserts spread around the world, other fossil fuel deposits being discovered and other renewable power sources becoming viable there could be some real competition in energy markets if investors give the issue some thought.

With the amount of wealth and power at stake concerning the process of Mediterranean integration, the fly in the ointment of Islamism is going to be gathering some penetrating attention in coming years. Not just from governments but from rich and powerful private interests all around the region and planet as a whole.

My main concern about the Mediterranean integration is the collaboration of anti democratic EU bureaucracy with the southern nations in order to further undermine southern democratic governments. If the project is to be a success the European Union is at least as needing of democracy and increased accountability as the regimes of the south, if not more.

Wednesday, 30 April, 2008  
Blogger ispdrudge said...

Since solar thermal is 30% efficient, where do these desert sites dump the 70% waste heat? If there are no bodies of water available to provide either direct cooling or evaporative chillers how can this work? Some of these sites are close to the Mediterranean, or Red Sea, or Indian Ocean. but they are also more likely to have agriculture and population centers.

Thursday, 01 May, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Excellent point, ispd. There is a definite need for a reliable heat sink to make these desert solar thermal engines work.

The desert at night can radiate a lot of energy into the sky. Especially higher altitude desert.

It might require some type of phase change materials--an integrated heat storage:heat sink apparatus.

You might even get some after hours electrical generation using the nano-antenna devices catching radiated infrared waves coming off the heat sinks at night.

Thursday, 01 May, 2008  

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