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As I wrote in the previous two articles in this series, the area required to meet our energy needs 100% from renewable energy sources is huge. But it is available in Europe, North America and Australia. Whether it makes economic sense to use photovoltaic, windmills, or biomass, is another matter. But there is a resource in abundance that can and must be used: sunshine in the desert!

The United States and Australia have their own deserts. Europe must cooperate with its neighbours in North Africa.

 

Fact: Today earth’s 7 billion people consume natural resources at a 50% greater speed than their rate of regeneration. At this rate of use we actually needed 1.5 planets now.

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Question: In 2050 the earth will have up to 10 billion inhabitants. How will we provide them with food, water, energy, and products?

Answer: Solar thermal power plants!

1. Earth’s deserts receive in 6 hours more energy from the sun than humans consume in an entire year.

2. More than 90% of the world''s population live less than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) away from a desert.

3. Solar thermal power plants can provide electricity 24 hours a day. They use mirrors to convert sunlight  into heat and thus to drive steam turbines. Heat stored during the day drive the steam turbines at night.

4. The technology is mature. Solar thermal power plants have been used commercially since 1985 in Kramer Junction, California.

5. Modern high-voltage direct current transmission lines (HVDC) can transfer electricity with a loss of less than three percent per 1,000 km (620 miles).

The United States and Australia are ahead of the game. The number and size of solar thermal power plants in these countries keep growing. (See my article on the Solana project.)

In Europe there are a few plants in Spain. But if the DESERTEC Foundation has its way, Europe and the countries of the Middle East and North Africa will get 15% of their electricity supply from solar thermal power plants by 2050.

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