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Desertec to Utilize HVDC in Deserts

Credits: ©2009 Desertec Foundation

Within 6 hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than all the people in the world consume in a year. The DESERTEC Concept will allow most people in the world to access solar and wind power from the energy-rich desert areas. By using High-Voltage Direct Current transmission lines (HVDC), it is possible to transfer power with losses of no more than 3 percent per 1,000 kms. Given the relatively high intensity of sunlight in desert regions and the relatively small variations between summer and winter, the benefits of generating electricity in desert regions will more than outweigh the cost of long-distance transmission. More than 90% of the people in the world live within 3000 km of a desert and may be supplied with solar electricity from there. Compared with photovoltaics (PV), Concentrating Solar-Thermal Power Plants (CSP-Plants) have the advantage that solar heat may

be stored cheaply and efficiently so that CSP plants can generate power at night or on cloudy days.


Desertec Map

Studies by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) show that, within 40 years, solar thermal power plants in particular will be capable of generating economically more than half of the electricity needs of the EUMENA region (Europe, the Middle East, North Africa) at that time. ©2009 Desertec Foundation

Also, gas or biofuels may be used as a stop-gap source of heat when there is not enough sun. These things mean that CSP plants may deliver power on demand whenever it is required. That kind of ability to respond flexibly to peaks or troughs in demand is invaluable in helping to maintain the stability of power grids. Thus CSP plants can reduce the need for such wasteful and inefficient practices as keeping coal-fired plants on "spinning reserve“ between

peaks in demand.

Solar-thermal power plants have been in use commercially for several

decades in the deserts of California (USA). The first plants have been

operating in Kramer Junction in California since the mid-1980s and

new plants have come on stream recently in Spain and Nevada. With

the right framework of laws and regulations, the development of CSP

plants may be ramped up fast. Also, HVDC transmission lines have

been in commercial use for decades and manufacturing capacity may

be expanded as required.

There are two important features of HVDC transmission lines that will

help win their acceptance by the public: Firstly, HVDC transmission

lines, by contrast with HVAC lines, produce hardly any electro smog.

Secondly, for a relatively small increase in cost compared with overhead

lines, it is possible to lay HVDC transmission lines under ground

or underwater, thus minimising their visual impact and speeding up

planning applications

At present, the cost of power generated by solar-thermal power plants

including its transport via HVDC transmission lines amounts to 10 to

20 euro cent per kilowatt-hour – depending on the location, technology

and form of operation. However, these costs will drop significantly

with economies of scale and refinements in the technologies. If environmental

and hidden costs are properly accounted for, it is likely that

electricity from CSP plants is already cheaper than electricity from

coal-fired or nuclear power plants.


  Desertec - Solar Power from the Desert (422 kb)

  Desertec Red Paper (1,500 kb)


Desertec Foundation