Working from home today, I spent some time with the TV on (CNN & MSNBC) and with the radio (NPR) on. Why did I have to read about the agreement between Munich Re and other companies to proceed with plans to build large-scale solar power plants across north Africa on a environmental blog? Thank goodness Grist exists to give at least a little coverage to the story [LINK]. This is a follow up to a previous entry on this blog.
The gist of the story is that the meeting appears to be a success, and the plan is for a 400billion Euro investment ( over how long I can't tell). It sounds like a lot, but according to the story, these solar power plants would account for 15% of Europe's power by 2050. Plus, it would provide a substantial amount of power to the countries of northern Africa. A reliable, reasonably affordable, source of electricity (and employment) would certainly help stabilize the local economical and political environments across the region. I hope that their timeline is conservative, as it would be much more exciting if they could get these plants online by, say, 2020, at least supplying some electricity to Europe.
There are critics according the article. The only one they cite is a German whose argument appears to be, why do this in north Africa and not Germany. Honestly, that is pretty lame. There are certainly prospects for solar energy in Germany, but they can't compare with subtropical Africa in terms of amount of sunshine and amount of open area. Secondly, if that's the only complaint, I hope these critics get together and put some money up to start building solar power plants in Germany; that would be terrific.
I can not express how exciting I think this project is. The fact that there are huge industry backers speaks to the potential benefits as well as profits. That the plan is long-term means that there won't be short-term disappointment when there isn't much progress in the planning stages (people get disappointed so fast, e.g., the American public's dissatisfaction with the pace of the Recover Act money being distributed). Plus, this project will push the technologies involved, especially those HVDC cables, into more affordable and reliable products. A bonus would be if some American companies took notice and started seriously working on a similar solution for both North and South America.