A group of large companies will meet in Munich on 13 July to discuss the ambitious plan to harness solar power in the Sahara desert, providing energy to Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
The participants include utilities RWE and E.ON, engineering companies Siemens and ABB, German solar-thermal company Solar Millennium and companies from southern Europe and Northern Africa. The meeting, which will formally set up the Desertec Industrial Initiative, will be hosted by German reinsurer Munich Re. Around 10 companies are expected to sign a memorandum of understanding that will lay out plans for a series of projects that could be worth €400bn ($560bn) over 40 years.
The Desertec Foundation says that every six hours the world’s deserts receive more energy than mankind consumes in a year. The projects would use concentrated solar power from the Sahara to supply local and European markets using high voltage direct current transmission lines.
Desertec says it hopes the Sahara could be supplying 20 gigawatts of power by 2020, and eventually deliver 15% of Europe’s electricity, helping the continent reach its emissions-reduction targets. The first project likely to become a reality would link generation plants in Tunisia with southern Italy and could be completed in five years, Desertec says.
The European Union and German government strongly support the project, with both European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel praising the Desertec initiative at a recent Berlin meeting of energy executives.