Monday 19 November 2012
Desertec's trouble highlights Solar energy failings
Desertec was a German Green-Party led idea for building 125 gigawatts of solar power plant across the Desert of North Africa for export to Europe. At the cost of a mere 400 billion euros this was supposed to save us from dominance by Gazprom and others.
Green energy, helping poor countries, getting away from nasty Russians and their gas. What a great PR opportunity.
The reality has proved, somewhat more complicated. After all, there are still foreign countries involved, ones that are becoming more unstable like Morocco. So the dependence is not cured. Then there is the fantasy technology that somehow the power can be transported across continents without catastrophic loss along the way. Oh and that all the private companies are now rapidly pulling out after doing some lengthy due diligence and would only return if Government put up the vast share of the investment.
All of this could easily have been predicted a few years ago, but wild dreams and promises (this reminds me a little of asteroid mining initiatives in the US) make for great media content, as do big ideas that solve huge problems with simplicity - its just that they rarely work.
In fact, Solar energy is an industry in huge crisis, over-supply from China of cheap, inefficient panels has pushed prices down to below cost and ruined many companies business models. Then the various Governments in Europe, including our own, have started to cut subsidies for a technology that does not really deliver any meaningful return on investment.
Politicians love to make grand statements about the future being 'Green' - reality is showing this is far from the truth.