Harnessing just one third of one percent of the sunlight that strikes the Sahara and Middle Eastern deserts would meet all of Europe's energy needs. That, however, would require a solar farm the size of Wales in area. The cost would be staggering, a few trillion dollars at least. The benefits would be even greater. And, as reported in The Guardian, the Euros are doing what would be heresy to the Fossil Fuelers who run our country - investing in a new, renewable energy electricity grid:
Several groups have come up with plans to harness the sun in Africa to make electricity, which could then be exported to Europe, or use it to turn desert into forests by using the power to desalinate sea water. And how far is this from a reality? In a recent interview, European energy commissioner Günther Oettinger said that Europe will be importing hundreds of megawatts of solar-generated electricity from north Africa within five years. The EU is committed to sourcing 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Most advanced in the planning is the German-led Desertec Industrial Initiative, which aims to provide 15% of Europe's electricity by 2050 or earlier, via power lines stretching across the desert and the Mediterranean. Its $400bn plan is supported by some of Germany's biggest companies, including Siemens, E.On and Deutsche Bank.
And there is a precedent. Nine EU governments – including the UK – are already planning to build an advanced high-voltage, direct current network within the next decade. Europe's first electricity grid dedicated to renewable power took a step forward earlier this year when nine countries began to formalise plans to link their clean energy projects around the North Sea. These could join up the wind-lashed north coast of Scotland with Germany's vast array of solar panels and Norway's hydro-electric dams.
As well as providing more power, a transnational renewable electricity grid would help sort out the intermittencies associated with natural energy sources. With such a grid, electricity can be supplied across the continent from wherever the wind is blowing, the sun is shining or the waves are crashing.
As anyone in eastern Canada knows, our country is in desperate need for a modern, advanced technology electrical grid, the very sort of project that would have been an obvious winner to a politician with vision trying to forge a stimulus/recovery budget a couple of years back. That, however, didn't occur to the Oilheads, Harper and Ignatieff, who instead foisted on us their "Pinata Budget" which ensures no long-term recovery for the taxpayers who'll eventually be handed the bill for their stupid largesse.