Reference projects to demonstrate feasibility
An important step in studying the feasibility of the Desert Power concept is the development of reference projects. For this purpose, the Dii evaluates according to Desertec criteria power station concepts proposed within the scope of expanding renewable energy in the MENA countries. An initial programme was launched in Morocco in late 2009 with the goal of erecting solar-thermal plants there with a capacity of around 2,000 MW by 2020. Up to 50 GW in renewable capacity is expected in the entire MENA region.
The concepts for reference projects are designed to show that the technologies already available and in use today can also be deployed both cost-effectively and in accordance with legal/regulatory provisions in the EUMENA region as well. In general, four points are addressed here:
- Analysis of the regulatory framework for the generation, transmission and purchase in Europe of desert power from the MENA region.
- Determination of the generation costs and necessary energy mix.
- Assessment of power plant sites, grid connection options and generation technologies in cooperation with the responsible local institutions.
- Search for customers in Europe and clarification of handling.
The operator of each power plant is responsible for the necessary financial, contractual, constructional and operative measures.
The Dii will create the framework conditions for an initial 500 MW reference power plant in Morocco with an electricity line to Spain. Others are to follow.
Experience in deploying the Desertec-relevant technologies
The Dii builds on the previous experiences of the participating companies with the relevant technologies. The main focus is on solar-thermal power plants with parabolic trough reflectors. Wind power plants are the most advanced of the technologies being examined, with wide-ranging experience having been gathered worldwide. Photovoltaic generation is generally well known from rooftop installations on residential buildings or large halls. But there are also much larger facilities with over 200 MW in operation, for example the 290 MW installation in Arizona, US. This solar project was developed by First Solar, another Dii shareholder.
Solar-thermal plants can make use of diverse reflector technologies, e.g. power towers, Fresnel reflectors or parabolic troughs. In power towers several reflectors direct the sunlight onto a central point in the tower, heating up a heat transfer fluid. There are already 10 MW and 20 MW plants of this type in operation in Seville, Spain. Fresnel reflectors are similar to the parabolic troughs in which reflectors direct sunlight onto a pipe filled with a heat transfer fluid. These two types of plant differ only in the geometry of their reflectors.
Fresnel plants are already in operation in Spain. However, parabolic trough plants are currently at a more advanced stage of development and, with nearly 2,000 MW in capacity worldwide, it is possible to draw on many years of experience in the operation of such facilities. The largest solar power plants are those in America’s Mojave Desert. Europe’s largest solar-thermal projects are located in Spain.