The world's largest and most ambitious solar power initiative, dubbed "Desertec", is pushing ahead on July 13 with a meeting of a 20-firm consortium, including companies like Siemens, Deutsche Bank, and E.on. Companies present at the meeting will determine the next step for the German-led project, which will ideally take solar power from North Africa and transmit it to Europe.
The $554 billion Desertec project will consist of transmission lines spanning from the Maghreb desert to Europe. Concentrated solar power plants (CSP)—potentially placed in countries with cheap land like Libya, Morocco, and Algeria—will feed massive amounts of solar energy to high voltage direct current (DC) transmission lines spanning thousands of miles to the European continent. CSP plants are already in operation in the United States, but the Desertec project would be the first instance of CSP transmitted over a long distance. If successful, the project could cover 15% of Europe's energy needs.
In order for the project to be socially palatable, the Desertec consortium will have to make sure that African countries involved receive ample compensation. One suggestion is to allow host countries to keep a proportion of solar energy produced by CSP for free in return for providing sites.
Ambitious transmission line projects aren't limited to Europe. The $10 billion Green Power Express, a 3,000-mile transmission project that would bring wind power from North Dakota to Chicago and Minneapolis, is currently in the planning process.