Desertec – electricity and fresh water

Solar power ‘Desertec’ – a project backed by the Jordanian Prince Hassan bin Talal, is aimed to use the deserts along the coast of northern Africa and some Middle East countries, to capture the Sun’s rays and to use this solar power for two distinct increasing demands – power generation and freshwater. Guardian reports about the scheme on its Sunday online edition.

As the dry air in deserts is not capable to block the sunlight during the day, the day is marked with very high temperature, may be up to 45°C. Conversely as the reflected sun rays are not trapped, temperature falls sharply in the nights making it chilly cold. Rather than letting these sun rays leaving the Earth, the project is aimed to capture the energy.

How and where to use?

  • Giant mirrors will be used to focus the sunlight onto a central metal pillar filled with water. As temperature will start to rise as high as 800°C, water will vaporise very fast into steam which will then be used to drive turbines to generate electricity. Water’s boiling point is 100°C.
  • Secondly the highly heated steam will be used to boil stored sea water in tanks. Steam from the sea water will be condensed and used as fresh water. Not to mention how fresh water is badly needed in desert areas where population is increasing and exploitation of fossil water is causing many oases to dry up and vanished before our eyes.

Only part of the electricity will be exported to Europe while the rest will be used for local needs.

Although cost and uncertainty about some issues like regional stability remain in concern, but nevertheless it’s a brave enterprise of an intelligent Prince. Let’s hope for success. The huge move to such alternative energy sources will dramatically reduce carbon emissions to the atmosphere. That’s what we need now.

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