Mention the word “Sahara,” and one thing probably springs to mind…
Lots of it.
The sun shines for 3,000 to 4,000 hours per year, with the average temperature between 100 degrees and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
And at 3.6 million square miles, it’s the world’s third-largest desert, covering one-quarter of the African continent. So that heat is spread across a massive area.
With that in mind, why wouldn’t you harness that solar power to generate energy for homes?
That’s precisely the thinking behind the TuNur project…
24/7 Solar: Reinventing the Way Solar Energy Is Produced
Deep in the Tunisian Sahara, TuNur is a solar-powered renewable energy initiative with a big ambition…
Produce twice as much energy as any nuclear power plant in the world and crank out enough juice by 2018 to power two million European homes.
The project involves renewable energy investment firm, Low Carbon, plus solar power developers, Nur Energie.
At the heart of the plan is a giant solar power plant (around 40 square miles) in the middle of the desert, which redefines the way solar energy is created.
Rather than the traditional method of using a range of photovoltaic solar panels to absorb the sun’s energy, the project uses “concentrated solar power” instead.
Simply put, this process uses mirrors to refocus the sun’s force to a central tower, where water and molten salt is heated to 932 degrees Fahrenheit. That energy powers a turbine, which creates electricity.
Nur Energie CEO, Kevin Sara, explains the benefits of this system: “The technology that you can deploy in the desert is baseload renewable power. That means you can actually replace fossil fuel power plants because we can generate 24/7 using solar power.”
The goal is to shoot that energy to the Tunisian coast, where it’ll be whisked to a European hub in northern Italy via an undersea cable. From there, it’s hooked up to the European electricity grid.
This is no idle project, either…
A 10-Million-Euro Energy Plan
The developers have poured 10 million euros ($12.4 million) into it and believe that “desert power” has the ability to wean Europe off fossil fuels. And it’s particularly important, given persistent geopolitical concerns over energy security.
As Sara states, “We believe this is really opening a new energy corridor. This could be the first of many projects, and we could gradually de-carbonize the European grid using this solar energy with storage from the Sahara Desert.”
Not only that, it promises to help Tunisia with its own energy needs and stabilize a market that’s still recovering from the uprising in 2011 that squashed GDP growth and jobs.