TOPIC 'Solar Energy' on Feb 02, 2009 (CST)
The Sahara Desert Is Perfect To Provide Solar Power
The Sahara Desert is the largest desert in the world. It is nearly devoid of humans, roads, and buildings. Many look at this vast expanse of territory and see a wasteland. Others are beginning to look at it with a fresh perspective and see huge quantities of solar energy able to be produced and stored. What better place to corral sunlight?
The Sahara Desert is comprised of 8.6 million square kilometers of sun and sand. Some parts of the desert reach as high as 45 degrees Celsius. It is positively a wonder to use as a natural method for storing solar energy.
Scientists believe that the technology of concentrating solar power (CSP) can help turn the vast Sahara heat and sun into a significant source of electricity. Solar panels take sunlight and directly convert it to electricity. CSP, on the other hand, uses “mirrors to focus light on water pipes or boilers.” This produces an amazing “superheated steam” that operates turbines on generators.
CSP plants on a small scale have been in operation in the Mojave Desert in California since the 1980s. Trying to implement CSP technology on a large scale, large enough to incorporate use of the Sahara Desert, however, will be expensive. It would mean miles and miles of mirrors and pipes stretched over inaccessible and desolate terrain. One estimate from an engineering firm familiar with desert attributes places the cost at $59 billion to begin utilization of power transmitted through the Sahara by the year 2020.
Thoughts are that enough solar power harnessed by CSP technology could power the entirety of Europe for centuries. However, there is another drawback, besides cost, to the technology. CSP works best and at its maximum capacity for efficiency in sunny, hot climates. Deserts, like the Sahara, are usually not near population centers. To transport the electricity to the locations it is needed would require a lot more work and would cost a lot more money. Cables would need to be laid under the Mediterranean Sea.
The French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, tried to build a base of support for the solar construction in the Sahara Desert in 2008 with the group, the Mediterranean Union. But such high costs, especially at the current time of global economic recession, are not meeting with a favorable response.
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