T. Boone Pickens scrapped his massive wind power plan, but that doesn't mean hope is lost for other large-scale renewable energy projects. Enter Desertec, a solar pipeline spanning from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe. The project, which has been in the works since 2007, just received backing from a consortium of 12 European companies, including Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Schott Solar, Abengoa, and Cevital. The newly-formed Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) will receive investments of $555 billion over 40 years for a plan that could provide up to 15% of Europe's total electricity needs.
Now that Desertec has received financial support, the real work of planning the design of undersea transmission cables and hundreds of solar thermal plants begins. Developing the plan will take three years, at which point construction can begin.
Not everyone is a proponent of the project. Eurosolar, the European Association for Renewable Energy, claims that Desertec is an impossible feat because of the unstable political situation in North African countries combined with bloated construction costs. As Eurosolar's head, Herman Scheer, points out, $555 billion injected into the struggling European economy—instead of foreign countries—could go a long way. And instead of putting all the solar power into the hands of big corporations, it might be more prudent to invest in smaller-scale distributed solar projects sprinkled throughout Europe.
Nevertheless, the Desertec project is moving forward. If the Desertec Industrial Initiative can overcome political concerns in North Africa, it will bode well for other solar projects in the area.