We occasionally get press releases from a group known as Trans-Mediterannean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) or TREC UK, visionary proponants of massive development of solar concentrators combined with large scale new HVDC (high voltage direct current) transmission corridors.
|Parabolic solar thermal collectors (2 axis).
(Photo: TREK UK)
According to pro-TREC sources, an area of 254 kilometers x 254 kilometers of hot desert, if covered with concentrating solar power plants, would provide electricity equivalent to the current annual electricity consumption of the whole world.
Needless to say we decided to crunch the numbers on that one.
If you assume these 64,516 square kilometers (64 billion square meters) were to have an output of 100 watts per meter, at 7.0 hours per day at 100 watts-hours per hour per square meter, this array would throw off 45 billion kilowatt-hours per day, or 395 trillion kilowatt-hours per year.
This imputes a constant 24-7 supply of 1,882 gigawatts, or 1.8 terawatts of electric power. The US draws about 450 gigawatts (or .45 terawatts) of electric power, or by these reckonings 24% of total global electrical output. That sounds plausible.
It’s important to note that at 6.4 billion people on the planet, this 64,000 square kilometer area would only represent an area of 10 square meters per person (that’s about 100 square feet, Jackson) – not much space to replace every electrical generating system on earth – nor much to double it.
Apparently in the latest report, the U.K. Parliament (this time around) is not going to support the construction of hundreds of gigawatts of solar fields in North Africa and the Middle East, delivering electric power on a continental scale via a new trans-Mediterranean grid using advanced-technology underground HVDC transmission lines.
For information on mega-solar concentrator potential, read our posts “Nevada Solar One,” “Solel’s Solar Thermal,” “< href="/home-buildings/thermal-circulation-systems.html"a title="Solar Circulation Systems">Thermal Circulation Systems,” “< href="/fuels/solar-thermal-storage.html"a title="Solar Thermal Storage">Solar Thermal Storage,” “Thermal Voltaic Power,” and “Serious Megawatts.”
To get an idea of the potential of HVDC transmission, read “Life in the Electric Age,” and “Saharan Solar Power.”
|Trough solar thermal collectors (1 axis).
(Photo: TREK UK)
Here is the text of the press release from TREC-UK, a group supporting the proposal for a trans-mediterranean HVDC power grid connected to massive new solar concentrator fields:
“A plan to supply the whole of Europe with clean solar power from desert regions in North Africa and the Middle East has now been debated in the House of Commons.
On Thursday, Dr Howard Stoate, MP for Dartford, described how, every year, each square kilometre of hot desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts worldwide, this is several hundred times the entire energy consumption of the world. The key technology for tapping in to this cornucopia is the simple proven technique of “concentrating solar power” (CSP): using mirrors to concentrate sunlight to create heat and then using the heat to raise steam to drive turbines and generate electricity, just like a conventional power station. Solar heat can be stored so that electricity generation can continue at night.
Using CSP, less than 1% of the world’s deserts could generate as much electricity as the world is currently using. And it is feasible and economic to transmit solar electricity for 3000 km or more using highly-efficient ‘HVDC’ transmission lines. It has been calculated that 90% of the world’s population lives within 2700 km of a hot desert and could be supplied with solar electricity from there.
Quite apart from the transmission of solar energy throughout Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, the proposed ‘HVDC’ Supergrid would reduce wastage by allowing electricity to be transmitted from areas of surplus to areas of need, it would increase energy security because temporary shortfalls in any area could be covered from elsewhere, and it would help to match variable demands with variable supplies. It would also provide the means of transmitting electricity from large-scale but remote renewable sources such as off-shore wind farms, wave farms, tidal stream generators and the like.
Dr Stoate said “Concentrated solar power is a concept of literally dazzling simplicity. It is an idea so simple, and with such extraordinary promise as a means of power generation, that it seems astonishing that in Europe we are only just waking up to its potential, more than 20 years after its first use in California.”
Responding to Dr Stoate’s speech, energy minister Malcolm Wicks MP said “The world has huge solar resources, on which concentrated solar power technology can clearly draw. … The Government will continue to follow developments in concentrated solar power and long-distance electricity transmission.” He said that Dr Stoate had made several interesting and important points and that he would like to be better informed on the subject.”