The Desertec Industrial Initiative, a coalition of companies including E.ON, Siemens, Munich Re and Deutsche Bank announced at its annual conference held in Cairo said that all systems are go in Morocco with construction of the first phase of a 500 MW solar farm scheduled to start next year. The precise location of the EUR 2 billion plants is yet to be finalized but it is expected to be built near the desert city of Ouarzazate. It will use parabolic mirrors to generate heat for conventional steam turbines, as opposed to the photovoltaic cells used in the UK.
Mr Paul van Son CEO of Dii said that the 12 square kilometer Moroccan concentrating solar power farm will be a reference project to prove to investors and policy makers in both Europe and the Middle East and North Africa region that the Desertec vision is not a dream like mirage but one that can be a major source of renewable electricity in the decades ahead.
Mr Van Son described Desertec as a win win for both Europe and MENA. The Arab spring had created both opportunities and questions for the ambitious project. Discussions are already underway with the Tunisian government about building a solar farm and Algeria is the next obvious country due to its close proximity to Western Europe’s grid. Countries such as Libya, Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Saudi Arabia are predicted to start joining the network from 2020, as a network of high voltage direct current cables are built and extended across the wider region.
Mr Jochen Homann the state secretary at Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economics and Technology said that "We undertook major reforms in German energy policy this summer and Desertec opens up an opportunity for us. We want to enter the age of renewables with sustainable sources of electricity supplying 80% of our power generation by 2050. As we accelerate our phase out of nuclear power, we need to safeguard an affordable supply of electricity and we will be interested in importing renewables supplies in the future. Germany’s government will continue to support Desertec. It is an inspiring vision which is good for foreign, climate and economic policies."
Mr Homann stressed that there would be pre conditions for guaranteeing long term support from the Germany government. He said there must be liberalization of the energy markets across the MENA region North Africa still provides huge subsidies for fossil fuels. There will need to be regulatory improvements. Only then will renewables be able to compete and a common market created. And other European states must participate, too.