Solar energy has tremendous potential. What is interesting in solar power generation is how much energy can be generated per month without 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 actually, due to cloud cover the best conditions for solar generation are in the deserts around the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn at approximately 22 degrees north and 22 degrees south, respectively.
In order to maximize the solar energy potential of these areas, new methods of energy transmission are needed to compensate for the long distances between the solar energy harvesting sites and the population centers which would consume the energy. 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. Technology already exists that heats oil by concentrating mirrors, which then heats water that is fed into ordinary steam turbines to produce electricity.
The Sahara desert has a surface of nine million km2 and only 0.2 per cent of the desert’s surface is needed for considerable 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 and used during the night or when there is insufficient sunlight.