The world’s largest concentrated solar power export initiative is set to begin operations in Tunisia by 2016, with construction starting as early as July 2014.
TuNur – a joint-venture between NurEnergie, a solar power plant developer based in England, and a collection of Tunisian investors – is working with the Tunisian government to lay the groundwork for the project.
“The government needs time to examine the studies of the project, and it is also a matter of time for developers to decide. All eyes are focused on us so we have to get everything done on time,” said Kevin Sara, founder and CEO of NurEnergie.
The project will be constructed in the southern governorate of Kebili on a flat expanse of desert between Chott Jerid and the Algerian border. The site has been plotted by TuNur’s engineers over the past three years, and will occupy less than 0.2% of the total area of the desert.
TuNur’s project will generate a minimum of 9,000 GWh of electricity per year, and will adhere to the principles of secure provision and distribution of electricity, social responsibility, economic sustainability, and environmental safety.
To this end, Dr. Till Stenzel, TuNur’s Chief Operating Officer, said that desertification studies have been conducted to ensure that the environmental impact of the project will not jeopardize the ecological integrity of the region.
According to Sara, choosing Tunisia for the project came down to geography and human capital. “Tunisia is a strategic location, and we found that [local human resources] match with what is required for the realization of the project,” he stated.
The project can potentially alleviate the strain of unemployment, which currently hovers around 18% nationally. The initiative is projected to create 1,500 positions for the construction of the site, 500 positions to manage plant operations, and 20,000 positions in running the supply chain, such as manufacturers of equipment, suppliers for the project, and contractors to oversee the supply chain.
An estimated four and a half billion euros will be injected into the Tunisian economy during TuNur’s operational lifetime, without taking into account the significant reduction in energy prices due to the competition TuNur will bring to the local energy market -currently dominated by the state Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company.
On June 7, TuNur held a press conference to discuss the anticipated energy export project. The opening speeches were given by Noura Laroussi Ben Lazreg, the general director of the National Agency for Energy Management, and Khaled Kaddour, the general director of energy in the Ministry of Industry and Technology.
Both Sara and Stenzel explained the intricacies of the project, which involves concentrated solar power (CSP) tower-technology to capture solar energy and high-voltage direct-current submarine power cables through which electricity will be exported across the Mediterranean to Italy, where it can then be distributed throughout Europe. It was also announced that TuNur will soon establish a subsidiary in Tunisia.