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ABB signs Desertec agreement for solar energy

The process of generating clean electricity in the world’s deserts is making progress, claims ABB, which signed a memorandum of understanding on the Desertec industry initiative in Munich this month.

The Desertec Foundation developed Destertec — a proposed large scale solar power project in North Africa. A number of European companies in the power, gas, energy and automation industries that have banded together to attempt to make the plan a reality.

“ABB has been a collaborator on the Desertec project for many years,” said ABB regional manager in central Europe, Peter Smits.

“We believe our technologies and expertise will contribute to the continued success of this pioneering project.”

By 2050, solar power from the northern Sahara could meet about 15 percent of European electricity needs and a significant proportion of local electricity demand in the countries of North Africa, claims ABB.

The aim of the newly founded initiative is to analyse the technical, economic, political, social and environmental framework for the project.

Viable investment plans will be developed over the next three years and there are considerable business opportunities, ABB says. ABB will make a contribution, particularly in terms of the technical expertise required to incorporate renewable power into the grid and transmit power efficiently over long distances.

“The technologies for a project like Desertec are tried and tested. HVDC (high-voltage direct current) — a key technology for the long-distance transmission of electricity – was invented by ABB 50 years ago and has been evolving ever since. It is used to connect grids, incorporate renewable energy and increase energy efficiency. So ABB makes not only Desertec, but also climate change, possible,” said Smits.

“Desertec is a visionary project that brings the prospect of carbon-neutral power supplies in Europe a step closer, but it will probably still take some time before the first desert electricity starts to flow into Europe. In the meantime, today’s energy needs must be met by a broad mix of generation, including, for example, coal-fired plants.”

Alongside ABB, other members of the initiative include, for example, the German insurer Munich Re, the energy groups E.ON and RWE, Deutsche Bank, Schott Solar, and Siemens. Foreign companies such as Abengoa Solar from Spain and the Cevital industrial group from Algeria will also participate in the initiative.

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