Hybrid solar thermal and natural gas plants coming to Africa's deserts

Concerns about resource scarcity and environmental impact have led to the surprising emergence of solar power in recent years, but the rise of solar could also prove beneficial for gas-fired generation.

The Guardian reports that a collection of primarily German engineering companies have come together under the leadership of German particle physicist Gerhard Knies to create the Desertec Industrial Initiative.

Knies was inspired to start the project in the 1980s with the devastating accident at the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. Knies calculated that the world's deserts absorbed enough solar energy in six hours to power the world for one year. With that in mind, Knies hopes to provide more than 15 percent of Europe's energy needs from solar thermal power plants located in the deserts of North Africa and already has a 500 megawatt plant planned in Morocco.

However, Egypt has already begun operation at a similar solar thermal plant near the city of Beni Suef. Its 150-megawatt plant, however, relies on a hybrid of solar thermal technology and natural gas power generation, with only slightly more than 20 megawatts coming from solar power.

While the emphasis remains on renewable solar thermal power, broader adoption of that technology could further encourage the development of gas power plants. Turkey already completed a similar 530-megawatt hybrid gas plant earlier this year.

PennEnergy's Research area can help outline the growth and development of the natural gas sector in areas like Europe.

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