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Environmental

Solar thermal power and fantasy

I am ancient enough to remember when nuclear power was promoted as being so inexpensive that there would not be any need for electric meters. Well, in this new age, even solar power enthusiasts can have dreams, however improbable they may be. Munich Re, the largest reinsurance company, is promoting Desertec. The objective is to build solar thermal plants in Africa and Arabia, and use 20 trans-Mediterranean high voltage DC cables to carry the power to Europe. The price tag, a mere $560 billion in today's dollars. That would normally sound like a lot, but given the size of various stimulus packages, the war in Iraq, and banking bailouts, it almost sounds reasonable. LOL.
 
The project would be built over the next 40 years and would satisfy 15% of Europe electrical needs by 2050. Considering that a collection area the size of Austria could supply the world's need for electricity, the proposal is "modest" in its ambition. For more information, see http://www.economist.com/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13982870, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601085&sid=aoA1lvLbVDXU, and http://www.munichre.com/en/press/press_releases/2009/2009_07_13_press_release.aspx.