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Another Perk for Desertec Solar Project: 240,000 New German Jobs

By Stacy Feldman

Jul 8, 2009

A consortium of 20 blue chip German firms has thrown its weight behind the gigantic Desertec Sahara solar plan.

A new study helps explain why: The mega project could help spawn 240,000 new green jobs in Germany and deliver up to $2 trillion in profits to companies by 2050, according to the .

Desertec was launched in 2007 by the German association of the Club of Rome. Its architects seek to spread a supergrid of concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP) across a 6,500 square-mile stretch of North African desert to eventually power most of Europe.

According to the Wuppertal report, exporting the CSP technologies to Africa and other desert solar hotspots would help German manufacturers build on their already strong solar market share.

CSP "offers great opportunities for German plant builders," the authors wrote. They reveal the nation's likely winners:

Schott Solar, MAN Ferrostaal Group (NRW) and their business segment "Solar Energy", Flagsol (NRW), Solar Power Group, Solar Millenium and Fichtner Solar who are all involved in CSP.

Schott Solar (receiver) and Flagsol (mirrors) are world market leaders. E.ON, RWE and EnBW are increasingly interested in using the technology and leading insurance companies like the "Münchner Rück" are considering including CSP as a new business segment.

The findings support the much-publicized decision last month by a group of leading German firms to begin raising a considerable sum of $555 billion for Desertec. Those companies, which include insurance giant Munich Re, German engineering leader Siemens and Deutsche Bank, will meet for the first time on July 13.

Critics have slammed the consortium's efforts. They argue that Desertec would impinge on the development of Germany's exploding domestic rooftop solar industry, taking funds from national subsidies and killing local jobs.

But the Wuppertal study, which was commissioned by Greenpeace and the Club of Rome, lays out the counter case — that Desertec, too, makes economic sense for the nation's blooming clean energy economy.

In fact, CSP power plants could become the "third German 'export hit' in the field of eco-energy," behind wind and solar photovoltaic power, , an energy expert at Greenpeace Germany.

Already, Germany's renewable energy industry employs 214,000 people.

Max Schön, President of the Club of Rome, said that if Germany chooses to unleash its CSP market potential, that number could swell to 1 million. Which means clean energy could provide as many jobs as the nation's automotive industry in less than a generation. (The car sector currently employs three-quarters of a million people and is Germany's top industry.)

Worldwide, a massive shift to CSP solar in Africa and other desert regions could create a total of 580,000 new jobs by mid-century given the "right political framework," the Wuppertal report found.

Those numbers are probably on the conservative side. In May, Greenpeace released a report concluding that if a giant leap in CSP capacity occurs — reaching 25 percent of global electricity needs by 2050 — the sector would employ 2 million people around the globe.

Energy-wise, CSP potential is inarguably off the charts.

The technology works through vast solar mirrors that concentrate the sun's rays to drive steam turbines. If the world were to install CSP solar collectors on just three-thousandths of the Earth's deserts today (), they could power the entire planet.

More practically, the German Aerospace Center has shown that CSP plants in the Sahara could generate more than 50 percent of the electricity needs of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa in just 40 years.

Desertec has crunched the numbers on jobs: Just one 250 MW parabolic trough power plant requires 1,000 workers and engineers for a period of two to three years.

Of course, turning North Africa into a solar (and green employment) hub is hardly a one-nation job or responsibility. On top of the actual solar plants, the project requires quick establishment of expensive low-loss, long-distance high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines to export the power across the Mediterranean and into Europe.

The technology is ready to go. But deploying it would require cooperation, financing and favorable new laws and regulations from Germany and all the relevant EU nations and host African countries. No easy task, though the Desertec team remains optimistic:

Creating that favourable commercial environment is relatively easy in countries like Australia, China, India and the USA, where there is only one government involved, and it is harder to achieve when different countries have to co-operate (as in the EU and nearby sunbelt countries). However, with the right political will, these problems are solvable everywhere. It is in everyone’s interests that political leaders throughout the world take the necessary steps to facilitate DESERTEC developments.


See also:

Holy Solar Funding: Project Desertec to Get $500 Billion Cash Infusion?

Plan to Turn Africa into the Saudi Arabia of Solar Gains Traction

Desert Solar Could Meet 25% of World’s Power Needs by 2050

Solar Plan Would End Dependence on Foreign Oil for Cost of Iraq War

Breakthrough: Concentrated Solar Power All Over Southwest US

1,000 Acres of Giant Solar Mirrors to Rise in Israel's Desert, Finally

Yet Another Spanish Firm to Harvest Solar in Southwestern U.S.

World’s Largest Sky-Scraping Solar Plant Goes Live in Spain

Australia Finally Powers Up Investment for Large Solar Plants


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So, Is It About Power or German Businesses?

Note that Desertec's major backers are huge global conglomerates with interests in the centralized distribution of electricity.

I suspect that the success of off grid and grid-tied PV systems has begun to threaten their power, and this exhorbitant project with its unresolved geo-political complexities is the perfect way to get control back.

The PR campaign for Desrtec has been aggressive, and it is very hard to find articles that EXPLAIN exactly how things will work, how they will be funded, and who will have ownership of the plants. Instead, one stumbles constantly upon numerous replications of Desertec's own press releases, using their projections, their figures and their promises.

IMHO, Desertec tech is another white elephant begging to be shot down. Europe needs to curb wasteful power consumption, and also let the PV and feed-in-tariff system that has made many net generators of energy continue to give consumers independence and control. The Middle-East and North Africa is a geopolitical mess, and it is unlikely that the prospects of generating Europe's electricity will unite the volatile region.

The question about Africa South of the Sahara remains relevant. Isn't Desertec going to widen the split in the continent?

what does Africa get out of

what does Africa get out of this?

In the first step most of

In the first step most of the produced energy is used in the african states. Just a little will be exported. Every state can choose this by its own interests. This is a schedule till 2050. Another big point is that as a side effect large quantities of drinking water can be produced with the waste heat.

What about Africa?

We've heard a lot about the benefits for Europe in this scheme, and I am sure the European nations would love to solve their energy problems by using Africa's desert areas. But what does Africa get out of this? Precious little I'll wager. So we have Europeans plundewring African resources...hang on, isn't that a familiar story?

What about Africa _ how about all natural resource development?

While not wishing to argue the point regards Europeans, Americans, Chinese, Indians and who- knows-who-else who have been exploiting Africa's resources, let's face the fact that the Africans may be either unaware, unconcerned, and/or unprepared to develop solar energy potential which is recognized by some very aware and enterprising Germans. In Europe, German development and promotion of solar energy technology and applications is currently unparalleled; perhaps, they should be applauded for attempting to undertake a project to exploit a resource which others choose to ignore - who knows? Does Roger know? If one is concerned about the welfare of the Africans, join the crowd. As I understand, few African countries have managed to even develop governing policies and practices which benefit their own inhabitants; perhaps Roger could spend his time and efforts pursuing answers to such problems. We are all aware that resource development companies from the countries mentioned above will go anywhere and do anything to pursue their selfish profiteering objectives. Meanwhile one can hope that the German solar developers are aware to the extent that know better than to despoil the local environment in the destructive manner so characteristic of the oil and mineral development companies. Who knows, they may even evolve some truely useful and positive techniques.

there are huge job opportuity.

240,000 New German Jobs will bring a lot of befinites to germany.

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