African Deserts – Energy Goldmine

African Architecture has a post that i really really liked. It is titled “African deserts a potential clean energy goldmine?” I say absolutely!
He adds,

Maybe African venture capitalists, investors and property developers could look at converting the Sahara and Kalahari deserts into vast solar energy farms and ecofriendly new cities.

The technology he posts on is that of using solar chimneys. here is pic i borrowed from him.

(totally unrelated, but he has a very cool name. ‘Ugo’) o.k, lets get back to the matter at hand,
consider the fact noted awhile back that “Africa is home to the over 9 million km² Sahara desert, whose overall capacity â?? assuming 50 MW/km² day/night/cloud average with 15% efficient photovoltaic panels â?? is over 450 TW, or over 4 million terawatt-hours per year.”
The potential is indisputable. Now where is the money?

::To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. – Anatole France.

17 thoughts on “African Deserts – Energy Goldmine

  1. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Africa deserts - source for solar power

  2. There was a pilot project in France some years back….anyone with info?
    Also, I tend to disagree with the feasibility of such a project. Such a project can only be funded by donors by virtue of the sheer capital outlay. From experience, they cannot fund a project that will give us economic mileage over them. our power would be cheaper, meaning that production costs will plumate…. with the result that African goods would be more afordable than theirs: The end result? they will lack a market for their produce……they can’t let that happen.

  3. Sokari – Indeed.

    makau (may i call you that? or MWM?) interesting about the the pilot project in france, hadnt heard abt it, but will watch out for it. I think you have a point, and the reason for Ugo stating ‘African Venture Capitalists’ becomes even more important. Some day perhaps, though i do know for sure that there are some seriously good African VC’s out there.

  4. I agree. This is definitely worth atleast a pilot study, atleast something we can put our finger on and call a ‘tangible result’: A possibility explored?

  5. Afro – I cross posted this piece via your blog and received this comment you might be interested in:

    “Mary Graham, a fullbright scholar in Mali, is working to create a local solar panel industry that will work to electrify rural villages all over Mali. More information on their work can be found at and”

    Taking a possibility like this and merging with AVC would be perfect – taking control of our own resources and managing their production.

  6. Magaidi – Definitely, lots to do.

    Thank you sokari! I am looked through those sites and it is definitely something amazing. They spent $6000 and had several solar installations including a solar water pump.

  7. Pingback: And now, for something completely different… » Blog Archive » Mina d’or energètica?

  8. Giovanni, i dont think it so much as needs to be transported, once the energy is harnessed, it can be ‘pumped’ into the grid (i think that is one of the ways to transmit it) though other options would still be expensive.

    The other point that you were perhaps alluding to is the storage cost, which would be high if batteries are used, but if the energy is produced relatively close to where it is consumed, then the transmission losses of electricity can be reduced.

  9. – but if the energy is produced relatively close to where it is consumed, then the transmission losses of electricity can be reduced. – .
    Quite true, but a desert is ‘desert’ by definition.

    -it can be pumped into the grid – .
    Quite true, but again there is no grid in a desert.

    In my opinion what you need first are enterpeneurs, people who want to make money from tourism, agriculture, textiles, whatever. Uncle Scroogies are far better then missionaries and no-profit loans. Sun will lighten schools and give you hot water for now. gdc

  10. Sorry to be joining this dialogue so late but I just noticed it today while searching for something else. In response to Giovanni and all the other skeptics, Germany and a few other European countries have already signed agreements (or contracts?) with some North African countries to develop giant solar energy farms in the desert. The electricity will be pumped under the Mediterranean Sea into southern Europe where the power enters the trans-national electricity grids.

    With the price of a barrel of crude hovering around USD$ 70.00 plus fears that Russia may mess around with natural gas supplies to Europe again, the solar solution is looking sweeter and sweeter. No plans to pump any of that Sahara Solar Power to destinations in sub-Saharn Africa though, at least not for now.

    P.S. I’d hate to be a pilot doing a low-level flyover near one of these solar farms in the Sahara. Those intense reflected sunrays would either blind you or fry you alive!

  11. I’m back! The subject is so interesting I just couldn’t leave folks wondering.

    I found a 6-page document online (PDF file) that goes into detail about the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC). Here is the link:

    I think that the European Commission website has something about this proposed project and other solar/wind energy projects like it and perhaps the Kingdom of Morocco website has a news article or two. Note that the Sahara Wind TREC document focuses on Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East and NOT on sub-Saharan Africa. Interesting, don’t you think?

    O.K., I’m gone.

  12. If this project could go as far as Irak and iran…

    If it could prevent the desertification of sub-saharian region…

    Does the world bank as taken this project seriously and if so whats going on?

    Libyan and algerian seems to take this very seriously..

    Also south africa and zaire…it could help lower the effect of burning trees.

    Oh and brazil and indonesia.

  13. Bar trading blocks of ices for desert solar energy. Huge blocks of ice from north pole to Africa on board of Zeppelins. Super-High voltage Electricy, from desert towers as high as 900 meters, cross the Mediterranean sea UNDER THE WATER !!! Mandrake’s comics. Oh brothers, start exporting to Europe your delicious cherries from June to September for now. We miss them. Strudek

  14. My apologies for joining this debate late.
    It’s a great idea but unless there has been cutting edge technology developed latelly solar energy is still quite expensive especially if considered as an export commodity.
    In the US
    # Current costs are about 25-50 cents per KWH for Solar Generated Electricity
    # Average price for the country from coal, hydro, nuclear, etc., is about 13 cents per KWH.
    I beleive this plan would work in Arid and Semi Arid rural settings (Northern Kenya, most of Chad, parts of Somali, Ethiopia and Sudan) to light up villages and power small industries, whether they would be sustainable it is still quite hard to tell considering the purchasing power of the target market.
    I hate donor funded projects but this is pretty hard for a VC to fund unless the entrepreneur has alternative cashflow and the project is part of ‘giving to the local community’
    I think more R&D needs to be done.

  15. The Project

    Australian Solar Tower Project

    View the 2005 Annual Report (365 KB)

    EnviroMissionâ??s inspirational program to adapt innovative Solar Tower technology to Australian conditions and construct the worldâ??s first large-scale solar thermal power station is set to deliver a renewable energy solution that will also be a destination and extreme engineering icon.

    The scale of the first 200MW power station will capture worldwide attention and attract significant added value through tourism and agribusiness.

    View Video Clip (7 MB)

    A single 200MW Solar Tower power station will provide enough electricity to power around 200,000 households, similar to the number of homes in a city the size of Hobart (capital of Tasmania) or Geelong (major suburb of metropolitan Victoria, Australia).

    The energy output will represent an annual saving of more than 900,000 tonnes of greenhouse CO2 gases from entering the environment, with an outstanding Life Cycle Analysis of 2.5 years.

    The Australian Solar Tower project has of six distinct phases:

    Project optimization (completed)
    Pre-Feasibility Commercialisation (completed)
    Final Feasibility (underway)
    Final Design and Construction
    Commercial Operation

    EnviroMission is currently in the final feasibility phase of development which involves collaboration and project partnering to validate the economics of the project. The collaborative approach has also been central to harnessing critical technical expertise and resources to further progress the development of the technology in Australia.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *