Desertec is a set of plans for a massive network of solar and wind farms stretching across the MENA region and intended to connect to Europe via high voltage direct current transmission cables (which are supposed to only lose 3% of their electricity per 1000km, or 620 miles)
This mammoth and ambitious project plans to power much of Europe mostly using concentrated solar power from Middle East and Africa. CSP reflects the sun to a central power where it powers turbines. Excess heat can be stored in molten salt and used later to create energy but Desertec won’t be doing that. Instead, the turbines will be powered at night by natural gas. However power from fossil fuels is limited to 27% of output.
That’s just one of the many problems and challenges that Desertec faces. It’s unclear what MENA would get from this or whether it would just be colonialism and exploitation. CSP is losing popularity in the States as it is more expensive than photovoltaic and uses considerable amounts of water. And indeed, water would be used to cool Desertec heat transfer fluids and to clean the reflectors, all of this in deserts. Finally, sandstorms could certainly damage the reflectors and maintenance would be continual.
The cost would be huge, $500 billion or more. But the most troubling part of all this is Desertec doesn’t appear to have asked MENA nations what they think. At the very least, MENA should get to keep substantial amounts of power for themselves and to get major income from it too.