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Tunisia: Tunisia prequalified for Desertec Project

For a challenge, it is quite certainly one. Desertec Project starts emerging as investors, less and less reluctant to pay out of pocket, being convinced that the project is worth funding.    Companies are beginning to work out appropriate plans to give this initiative, launched by the Club of Rome, enough chance of being accomplished for the benefit of an increasing range of countries. The multinational Siemens  ranks as a the technical  leader  of the  project, increasing studies and initiatives, such as the one it had  just  launched at the solar plant of Lebrija, about sixty kilometers from the city of Seville, Spain,  and in Seville where it held an international press conference attended by  about 30 journalists.
It is worth knowing that the sun is an inexhaustible source of energy. A concentrated solar power plant (CSP) covering just a small percentage of the surface area of the Sahara Desert (300 km x 300 km) could theoretically generate enough power to meet the needs of the entire earth. Electricity from solar thermal plants also has the advantage that it generates no harmful CO2 emissions. Together with offshore wind parks, solar thermal power plants are a key component of the Desertec project. This project will harness the sun’s power, supplying the energy needs of that region as well transporting power from Africa to Europe along energy superhighways (high-efficiency high voltage direct current lines). Spain is already using solar thermal plants, and they have also been in use in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
The basic principle of solar thermal power generation is quite simple: energy from the sun is used to heat water, which is then converted into steam and used to power a turbine. A generator converts this motion into electricity. Because heat can be stored for hours in tanks with liquid salt, these types of plants can generate power even when the sun is not shining. Experts estimate that the market for solar thermal power plants will experience double-digit growth between now and 2020.
 Siemens is the world leader in this market, and has received orders for more than 50 steam turbines. These turbines are manufactured in Görlitz and in Finspong, Sweden.
In addition, in March of 2009 Siemens acquired a 28 percent stake in the Italian company Archimede Solar Energy. This company has developed an innovative new technology for receiver tubes, in which liquid salt flows through the tubes instead of synthetic oil. The advantage of this: the synthetic oil ages from frequent temperature changes and must eventually be replaced, whereas the liquid salt stays in the receiver tubes. It works at temperatures of up to 550 degrees celsius, thereby allowing the plants to operate at much greater efficiency. Furthermore, heat can easily be stored in liquid salt, permitting the plants to generate electricity at night.
For now, the project could not be profitable, but experts bet on the forthcoming scarcity of fossil energy. They are least convinced that the project is perfectly feasible.
 In 10 years, solar electricity could well be one of the most interesting. As for technology used, it would be the solar thermal: parabolic mirrors produce steam at a very high temperature and under high pressure, as turbines make electricity.
By late 2012, the Desertec outline should be set out, namely location of facilities, funding, approximate distribution between solar and wind, and setting path of a reference project, a sort of test that will prove the initiative feasibility.
The technologies required to achieve the DESERTEC concept have already been developed and some are operational for several decades.
Nearly 3 GW of HVDC transmission lines have been deployed over long distances by ABB and Siemens for many years. In July 2007, Siemens won a tender for the construction a 5 GW HVDC system in China. During World Energy Dialogue meeting in Hanover, representatives of both companies confirmed the perfect technical feasibility of Euro-Supergrid .
Finally, since costs of materials necessary for building solar power plants are rising less quickly than the prices of fossil fuels, CSP should even become competitive faster than expected.  For now, low production capacity of plants components and strong demand keep prices high.
17 partners, 16 companies and Desertec Foundation are involved in the project including  the Spanish  Abengoa and the  Algerian Cevital. But most are Germans, like energy giants EON and RWE, Siemens, Deutsche Bank or the reinsurer Munich Re
At least, a Tunisian company has joined Desertec project. And this is just a beginning, because, according to Head of the Project Desertec Initiative of the Renewable Energy Division within Siemens, Bernd Utz ,Tunisia is the leader among the countries bordering the Sahara to take advantage of project and will provide significant contributions in terms of skills.


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