The UK may not immediately spring to mind when thinking of Solar Power on an industrial scale. Our climate is better suited to and has seen the installation of, a considerable number of Wind Farms both on and off shore. Sunshine is not something we can rely on. However Solar power may still be the answer to a clean renewable source of energy, even if it’s travelling here from the Sahara Desert via Rome.
A Solar project costing around $13 million has been proposed that would see a huge 100 square kilometer farm bringing energy from the desert to the UK, powering 2.5 million homes, and as soon as 2018. The installation would be made up of thousands of mirrors that are controlled individually by computer to ensure optimal reflection of the sun. The mirrors would be directed towards a central tower which would be filled with salt and water. This heats up creating steam to power a giant turbine from which energy would be diverted to a substation in Rome and onward to the UK.
Government on board?
The consortium behind the project includes British renewable energy financier Low Carbon. A subsidy from the UK Government giving a guaranteed price for the electricity produced, would help see the project realized and apparently the government is looking to grant such subsidies even though this particular project is outside the UK. It is anticipated that there will be a lot of competition over the coming years for new green energy projects for the Department for Energy and Climate Change to consider.
Been there, thought about that…
We should point out however that this isn’t the first time that such a project has been proposed and then shelved. It was in the news in 2008 but did not come to fruition as further investigation revealed that Europe could meet its energy supplies from existing sources. It isn’t new technology – in 1913 an American engineer demonstrated the concept in Egypt in an attempt to reduce the country’s reliance on British coal to power an irrigation system needed for cotton crops. The outbreak of war meant that this idea and the inspirational concept of harnessing the natural energy of the sun, slipped quietly into oblivion. In 1986 a German particle physicist estimated how much solar power was needed to provide the demand of humanity for electricity. His findings seem to show that in a mere 6 hours, the deserts of the world are in receipt of more energy from the sun than can be consumed in a whole year. The Sahara therefore, using an area the size of Wales, could power Europe in its entirety.
Great ideas take time!
What’s not to love? Will it happen? Well… work on another ingenious proposal, first begun in 1880, attempted a second time in the 1970s and finally coming to fruition in 1994 shows that stranger things have happened. It wasn’t clean energy but it was a great idea! The channel tunnel!
It takes time but it seems we get there… eventually. solar farm

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