Friday, September 28, 2007

Germany eyes North Africa's sun

Having become a world leader in wind turbines and photovoltaic panels, Germany is now turning its sights onto solar thermal generation.

Harnessing the sun's energy on just 6,000km2 of desert in North Africa would supply energy equivalent to the entire oil production of the Middle East of 9 billion barrels a year, acording to the German Aerospace Centre. It believes that solar thermal power plants could supply 68% of North Africa's as well as all of Europe's electricity by 2050.

One company that agrees is Flabeg, a German manufacturer of parabolic trough mirrors. Its new mirror can concentrate 92% of the sun's rays onto an absorber tube with a diameter of 70mm or less. It expects to sell these to power stations in Spain and North Africa and is already supplying 210,000 to the 50 megawatt solar thermal power plant, Andasol II, in Spain — the biggest in Europe.

Europe's first commercially operating solar thermal tower plant went into operation in April in Sevilla, Spain, generating 11 MW. The German Aerospace Center has built an experimental solar thermal tower power plant in Julich, Germany, to be commissioned in 2008.

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