Many countries have been looking at using the Sahara Desert as a source of solar power for years, especially countries in Europe. However, no one has yet to be able to solve the issue of how to build a huge solar array in the Sahara and then get the power from there to Europe. The major issue is the Mediterranean Sea which sits between the desert and the countries that want the solar power. However, recent work in the area of solar power by a number of German companies may change that.
Around 20 different companies from Germany have formed a consortium with the purpose of making use of solar power in the Sahara. They’re working to raise 400 billion euros to create the Desertec project. This project will place solar arrays in the most politically stable areas of the Sahara Desert. The total amount of power produced by these huge arrays could actually equal around 15 percent of all the electricity used in Europe. However, the Desertec project wouldn’t actually start providing this energy until 2019 or so.
The Desertec project is anything but a sure bet, unfortunately. The risk of building huge arrays in North Africa is fairly large, making it difficult to persuade some investors that the project is viable. Regulations in the area are another issue, especially since the various countries that control the Sahara want to have some control of the project. The red tape involved can be quite complicated.
Another major issue is the fact that while the array can provide a large amount of power to all European countries, there may be some compatibility issues. There is no single European power distribution network. Instead, each country has a different system, and until these systems are more integrated and unified, distributing the energy collected in the desert may be difficult.