Solar power for Europe from North Africa

Recently, France has launched a new project, TransGreen, to build an underwater network for Electrical transmission cables from North Africa to Europe.

Earlier this year, a German consortium launched the mega-project "Desertec" that plans to use solar power in the Sahara to generate electricity for Europe.

Is the TransGreen Project a Competitive or a complementary project to Desertec? 

The TransGreen project has been introduced at the May 25 Cairo meeting of energy ministers from the 43 countries. Participants discussed the formation of a consortium to install electrical lines connecting Europe to North of Africa.

The project TransGreen, aims to bring together power companies, network operators and high-tension equipment makers under the leadership of French energy giant EDF. The German industrial and engineering group Siemens, which is already part of Desertec, may also join TransGreen.

Currently, only a dual AC line with a capacity of 1,400 megawatts across the Mediterranean, under the Strait of Gibraltar between Morocco and Spain.

At the end of May, the Transgreen consortium plans to launch the first phase, a €5 million study phase before the building of the actual lines. Many companies have already agreed to contribute to this first step.

In addition to this financial advantage, the Transgreen project offers obviously a nice reference for similar future projects in China and India, which has undoubtedly been at least as convincing for Siemens, ABB, Alstom/Areva, Nexans, Prysmian, Cap Gemini or Atos Origin.

Solar energy could supply up to a quarter of the world’s electricity by 2050. Solar plants would harvest sunlight from fields of reflectors to boil water and drive steam turbines. The region’s “high solar resource largely compensates for the additional cost of long transmission lines” beneath the Mediterranean Sea.

Desertec aims to deliver 15 per cent of Europe’s power requirements by 2050 as the EU seeks to reduce its carbon emissions, in part by reducing consumption of electricity generated by burning fossil fuels. The MENA-region countries hoping to export power to Europe include Mediterranean nations such as Morocco and Algeria, Egypt as well as Saudi Arabia.

The Sahara, in North Africa, has the biggest Uninhabited Areas in the World, particularly well exposed to the Sun, which could boost Economies of Scale for a Big Solar Energy Production Network linked to the EU from Spain (via Gibraltar), up to Greece (via Crete) and Cyprus, as well as Italy (via Malta and Sicilia), France (via Sardaigne and Corsica), etc.

From the outset, the TransGreen project, sponsored by France, looks like a competitor to Desertec, a project initiated by German companies. However, The French group Saint-Gobain is actually part of the project Desertec, Siemens, the giant German electrical, engineering and electronics company is said to be joining the TransGreen consortium. Instead, one project (TransGreen) will deliver to Europe, part of the energy generated by the other (Desertec) project.