Forbes.com: The Saudi Arabia Of Solar Energy - by William Pentland
The Saudi Arabia Of Solar Energy - by William Pentland
In the wake of the first Gulf War, the U.S. Army assessed Saudi Arabia's solar energy resource potential in a classified effort to determine how oil fires had affected the region. The results were clear and surprising. In addition to being a vast petroleum repository, the desert nation was also the heart of the most potentially productive region on the planet for harvesting power from the sun. In other words, Saudi Arabia was the Saudi Arabia of solar energy. With the cost of oil skyrocketing, this belt is attracting the attention of a growing number of European leaders, who are embracing an ambitious proposal to harvest this solar energy for their nations.The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation, or TREC, is the brainchild of a consortium led by the controversial Club of Rome and includes influential members like the German Aerospace Bureau and several universities in Europe and the Middle East.
TREC is spearheading a political initiative to build a so-called transmission supergrid by concentrating solar thermal power plants, wind turbines and long distance power lines to supply energy to Europe. The proposed power plants would simultaneously provide energy to seawater desalination plants in the Middle East and North Africa. While the wild-eyed scheme might seem better suited for conspiracy theories than reality, it has attracted a growing number of impressive and powerful backers. In 2007, Prince El Hassan of Jordan, who has called for implementing the plan with an Apollo-like program, presented the plan during a European Union parliamentary session. Nicolas Sarkozy, the recently elected President of France, and U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown have both publicly endorsed the supergrid project in recent weeks. In July, Sarkozy hosted the inaugural meeting of the "Union for the Mediterranean" in Paris. The Union, which seeks to promote relations between North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, considers TREC's solar energy proposal one of its top priorities. Meanwhile, the escalating conflict in Georgia, which has exposed the extent of Europe's energy insecurity, has undoubtedly increased the TREC plan's appeal.