Wind generation has developed quickly during recent years. Mainly this development has taken place on land. However, the best wind potential is at sea at high latitudes in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
To build on land is the easiest, but the disadvantage is the wind blows for shorter intervals on land making the energy per installed kW lower. Another problem with land based wind power is lack of space and protests from the residents near the turbines. A lot of effort is being put into finding methods to build wind power at sea. As explained earlier, the potential of wind is huge and most of that potential is at sea. Link.
Today the total installed electric generation of European generators is 700 GW.
Read more about the plans by the EU for land and sea- based wind power of 300 GW in total by the year 2030. This would mean a considerable addition to the EU’s generation capacity.
Solar energy has tremendous potential. What is interesting for solar power generation is how much is generated per month with the least disruption. This is beneficial as electric energy cannot be stored easily over longer periods.
One might think that solar generation would be better the closer you are to the equator, but due to clouds the best conditions for solar generation is in the deserts around the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn at approximately 22 degrees north and 22 degrees south respectively. Link.
In order for these areas to be utilised new methods of transmission of energy are needed, as the distance from the deserts to the population centres are normally large. Fortunately, recent developments in High Voltage Direct Current, HVDC, make this possible.
For Europe and Northern Africa the Sahara desert is an enormous potential power source. Only 18,000 km2 of the Sahara desert needs to be covered by solar concentrating mirrors to supply all of Europe with electricity. The technology that already exists today heats oil by concentrating mirrors and then heats water that is fed into ordinary steam turbines.
As the Sahara desert has a surface of nine million km2 only 0.2 per cent of the desert’s surface is needed for electricity generation. In comparison one can look at the surface that is covered with asphalt on all Europe’s roads. This area is around 30,000 km2. To provide all the energy required in the world today an area of 650,000 km2 of desert would be needed. If we consider the area of all existing dams in the world, this area is around 400,000 km2. These dams, however, only supply a fraction of the world energy.
Solar energy has the added advantage that heat storage units (molten salt) can be charged during daytime to be used during the nights or when there are not enough hours of sunlight.