I will be honest. It does not take a lot for me to be amazed with our current problems in the environment, but DESERTEC has truly opened my eyes to something that can finally help us turn away from more destruction. It’s so simple I’m surprised it has not been utilized decades ago.
In six hours the desert receives enough energy to run the world for a year. However, right now the desert ground absorbs the heat and releases it back into the atmosphere. DESERTEC wants to rein in this waste and use it for our benefit.
DESERTEC is an organization that is working on installing Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Plants (or CSP Plants) in less than one percent of deserts worldwide. This small amount of unused land can produce enough energy to power the demands of ninety percent of the world’s population.
But how? Several hundred giant mirrors will be stationed in one square-kilometer of land, angled so the sun’s rays hit the top of a large tower. This tower is filled with water. When it receives the sunlight, it heats, reaching temperatures of almost eight-thousand degrees Celsius. This heats the water, emitting super-hot steam which is channeled to power large turbines. The turbines generate electricity.
The electricity is then sent by way of HVDC lines (High Voltage Direct Current transmission lines) which lose only three percent for every thousand kilometers, which isn’t a huge price when the energy that reaches the desert is abundant. These lines can be installed under both land and water, and can reach the ninety percent of the population that lives within three-thousand kilometers of a desert.
Cost, of course, is always a concern. Currently this solar power runs at about ten to twenty euros per kilo-watt hour, but in the next decade DESERTEC is confident that the constant improvement of their technology will drastically decrease the cost, making it competitive with fossil fuel. Solar energy right now in reality is much cheaper, but until we take the steps to install and make it pervasive in the world, the cost will, of course, be a little higher.
DESERTEC’s goodwill doesn’t stop there. All the left over and run-off steam is then used to heat giant tanks of sea-water. As it boils, the water evaporates leaving the salt behind and creating fresh water for the surrounding third-world countries desperately in need of this resource.
It will also create jobs for these countries. It takes a thousand workers to create just one, two-hundred fifty MW parabolic power plant, helping to boost these countries economies.
Europe is first to jump on this bandwagon, hoping to obtain one-sixth of their power demand as soon as possible.
We need this. We need this ingenious new power source that can replace our wasteful habits with fossil fuels. Not only that, but it will greatly benefit the surrounding countries. DESERTEC’s program is necessary for the world to survive the end of fossil-fuels, but hopefully this solution can become a major global reality before that has to happen.
To learn more please visit DESERTEC’s website.