$336M Funding For Desertec’s Saharan Solar Dream

Bankers met recently to give the go ahead for $336 million of funding for a massive solar project in the Moroccan desert, which the consortium behind it claim could one day supply power to all of North Africa and part of Europe.

The Boards of Directors of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) met in the Tunisian capital Tunis to approve the funding for a solar-thermal power plant near to Ouarzazate.

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image via Dii

The money will go towards the first phase of the project, which will see the construction of a solar installation with a capacity of 160 megawatts. Desertec, as the project is known, will then be expanded so that by 2015 the plant will generate a total of 500 megawatts (MW).

However, with an estimated cost of around $1.25 billion the AfDB loan will be a long way off paying for the entire project. The project will be jointly financed by six other agencies including the World Bank, European Investment Bank, Agence Française de développement, German Development Bank (KfW), Neighbourhood Investment Facility, as well as some Moroccan institutions.

The AfDB statement said the power plant would “pioneer the development of concentrated solar power technology,” or CSP. The CSP will be arrayed in parabolic trough mirrors around a central tower filled with fluid material, to generate 160MW in the first phase. The project will become one of the largest solar power projects in the world at full expansion.

A consortium of companies and organizations called Dii is promoting Desertec. According to climate scientist Ernst Rauch of Munich Re, a German reinsurer which is part of the consortium, the project has ambitions well beyond even the 500 MW of the second phase.

Reuters reported that Rauch told a German newspaper that the plant would ultimately grow to 500 MW, but even at that would be just a small piece of Desertec’s planned puzzle: It aims to supply nearly 100 percent of power demand in the Middle East and North African countries, as well as 15 percent of Europe’s energy, by 2050.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.