A little over 10 years ago David MacKay drew attention by saying “All the world’s power could be provided by a square 100km by 100km area in the Sahara.” Furthermore, MacKay’s calculation of the full potential of the region’s Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) totalled 25 times the TWh/year the world uses today. That was looking at the Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA) high solar irradiance, ample available land and the technologies of the day. Kevin McCann reviews the updated numbers and looks at the current renewable energy plans of the MENA nations. He notes that those high levels of Direct Normal Irradiance make large-scale CSP particularly attractive, and tags Morocco’s 500MW Noor-Ouarzazate CSP complex as an example. Including solar PV, the electricity generated in the region has risen from 32,160 GWh in 2010 to 425,873 GWh in 2017, an impressive annual growth rate of 175%. The potential is far greater still, but to deliver power across borders and outside the region in future will clearly require a step change in storage and transportation, as well as long term political stability.
The demographic, climatic and geographical conditions of the MENA region confer it with significant natural advantages for the development of large-scale renewable energy projects. Foremost amongst these include the following:
- Low population density (particularly in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Oman);
- Sunlight: High direct normal irradiance (DNI)
- Cheap, low value land particular in desert landscapes (e.g. Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Morocco).
Much of the following analysis presented below is based on the ground-breaking work undertaken by Dr. D. MacKay in his seminal 2008 work, “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air”. He later held the post of chief scientific adviser to the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change from 2009-2014. Where necessary, figures from his book have been updated to account for technological advances in the intervening period. (...) Read more
Photo credit: Michael Wilson via Unsplash
1. See in particular, Chris Goodhall at: https://www.carboncommentary.com/blog/2017/3/30/l6qcqgoedse1wmjjz87t09usoq6jva. See also ‘The Switch’ on https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Switch.html?id=QWz4CgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false