The sun is coming out. And Europe isn’t waiting any longer. Some of the biggest businesses in Europe are ready to invest in the largest solar energy project in the world. They are looking to create a “solar energy belt” in the Middle East and North Africa.
How will the energy get to Europe? It will go through huge “super grids” under the Mediterranean Sea. Has this kind of thing happened before? Siemens CEO, Peter Löscher, says: “A few years ago we connected Tasmania with the Australian continent. And from 2011 there will be a 250-kilometer undersea cable supplying Majorca with electricity from the Spanish mainland. For us, this kind of thing is now part of our core business.”
The project is being called the DESERTEC Industrial Initiative. Last week, some of the biggest companies in Europe and the DESERTEC Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Munich to get the initiative going. The project intends to “meet around 15% of Europe’s electricity requirements and a substantial portion of the power needs of the producer countries.”
In a similar manner, but involving much different technology, Siemens connected the US and Europe more than a century ago. “Siemens connected America and Europe via telephone cables under the Atlantic as early as 1874, before other companies existed. That mammoth project was considered as ambitious as Desertec is today.”
This initiative is anticipated to be a benefit in economic, environmental, social, and political ways. Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan states: “The partnerships that will be formed across the regions as a result of the DESERTEC project will open a new chapter in relations between the people of the European Union, West Asia and North Africa.” Max Schön, President of the German Association of the Club of Rome, says: “The establishment of the DII is a giant leap by industry for the lasting protection of human life.” Caio Koch-Weser, Vice Chairman of Deutsche Bank, states: “The Initiative shows in what dimensions and on what scale we must think if we are to master the challenges from climate change both in ecological and economic terms.”
Overarching goals of the project include energy security in the participating regions, growth and development opportunities for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, safeguarding future water supplies in MENA countries, and reducing carbon-dioxide emissions to meet European Union and German climate change targets.
As one article involving an interview with the CEO of Siemens AG detailed, the project could even supply Europe with 20% of its energy needs by 2050. The benefits are not only long-term, though. The plans are to start producing energy for Europe in about one decade.
As written about in a previous post, the leaders in green energy are expected to lead the world. Will the United States and major US companies like General Electric and Bank of America keep up? Hopefully.
Image credit: Heaven’s Gate (John) (Creative Commons license)