3M Joins Desertec

3M has joined the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii), based in Germany, as an associate partner. 3M will contribute in the areas of film, adhesive and coating component technologies to the Desertec initiative.

3M will also contribute its expertise in the area of high-voltage overhead conductors. The company has developed a conductor based on ceramic-fiber reinforced aluminum that can carry twice as much electricity as conventional steel cables, even under the most challenging climatic conditions.

"At 3M, our goal is to leverage our technologies to drive down cost and boost performance for renewable energy generating systems," says Dr. Dan Chen, Business Development Manager in the 3M Renewable Energy Division. "The partnership with Dii links us with one of the most comprehensive initiatives to address development and energy issues facing EU-MENA and the globe."

Examples of 3M products for the solar energy industry include mirror films and lenses for the concentration of solar light, encapsulating films designed to protect solar cells and charge collection tapes for photovoltaic modules. New developments in coating technology are targeted to make surfaces more abrasion resistant and easier to clean. The wind industry has been relying on 3M capabilities for more than 10 years, where special adhesive tapes have proven to be valuable in protecting the edges of rotor blades.

In the future, it is intended to increase the efficiency and reliability of wind turbines still further with the help of films, tapes, adhesives and also coatings from 3M. 3M is one of the most widely diversified companies in the world. One of its unmatched strengths is the varied use – often in combination – of its more than 40 core technology platforms. The company’s assets for the solar and wind industries were bundled into the Renewable Energy Division last year.

3M also established a European Research Center for wind power, solar and geothermal energy creation. Application solutions for these industries are based on a selection of core competencies in the areas of films, tapes, adhesives and coatings.

The DESERTEC Concept describes the perspective of a sustainable supply of electricity for Europe (EU), the Middle East (ME) and North Africa (NA) up to the year 2050. It shows that a transition to competitive, secure and compatible supply is possible using renewable energy sources and efficiency gains, and fossil fuels as backup for balancing power.

A close cooperation between EU and MENA for market introduction of renewable energy and interconnection of electricity grids by high-voltage direct-current transmission are keys for economic and physical survival of the whole region. However, the necessary measures will take at least two decades to become effective. Therefore, adequate policy and economic frameworks for their realization must be introduced immediately. The role of sustainable energy to secure freshwater supplies based on seawater desalination is also addressed.

In order to find a viable transition to an electricity supply that is inexpensive, compatible with the environment and based on secure resources, rigorous criteria must be applied to ensure that the results are compatible with a comprehensive definition of sustainability. A central criterion for power generation is its availability at any moment on demand. Today, this is achieved by consuming stored fossil or nuclear energy sources that can provide electricity whenever and wherever required. This is the easiest way to provide power on demand. However, consuming the stored energy reserves of the globe has a high price: they are quickly depleted and their residues contaminate the planet.

With the exception of hydropower, natural flows of energy are not widely used for power generation today, because they are not as easily stored and exploited as fossil or nuclear fuels. Some of them can be stored with a reasonable technical effort for a limited time-span, but others must be taken as provided by nature. The challenge of future electricity supply is to find a mix of available technologies and resources that is capable of satisfying not only the criterion of “power on demand”, but all the other criteria for sustainability too.

The DESERTEC WhiteBook describes a scenario of electricity demand and supply opportunities by renewable energy in the integrated EUMENA region up to the middle of the century, and confirms the importance of international cooperation to achieve economic and environmental sustainability.