Sahara-to-Europe Solar Power Plan Gets Warm Welcome

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FRANKFURT (AFP) — A 400-billion-euro ($560-billion) plan to pump solar energy from the Sahara to Europe has gotten a warm welcome but experts urge power groups to highlight domestic European renewable energy as well.German deputy environment minister Matthias Machnig said solar systems behind the plan had "enormous potential" and that Germany had developed some of the field's leading technology.The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) is powered by 12 mostly German companies from engineering, energy and finance sectors but has also won support from groups in Algeria and Spain and from officials in Egypt and Jordan.The project, scheduled for completion in 2050, would see solar power generators span North Africa and the Middle East to Saudi Arabia, with the electricity generated shared by producer countries and European partners.The technique, called solar thermal electrical generation (STEG), uses reflected sun rays to create intense heat and steam that drives a generator.Water desalination plants for host nations were another key part of the plan.The environmental group Greenpeace's spokesman Andree Boehling said: "We support and welcome this initiative" and forecast that "around a quarter of global electricity supply could come from solar electricity in deserts."Matthias Fawer, who covers sustainable energy at the private Swiss bank Sarasin told AFP the initiative was "a visionary concept" but noted it was not the only solution."I wouldn't bet on one horse," he said, adding that it was important to also speak about developing wind energy parks in the North Sea and geo-thermal energy in places where that was appropriate. …