Europe Rushing to Install Giant Solar & Wind farms in North Africa
In its quest for green energy, Europe is looking to North Africa, where vast solar and wind farms are proliferating
Solar panels in sun-rich North Africa generate up to three times more energy than in Europe, and North Africa has a lot more room for them.
Last May, as the Ukraine conflict intensified, the European Commission, representing 27 EU members, launched REPowerEU, “a plan to rapidly reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels and fast forward the green transition.” It provides political and financial backing for cross-border investments to stimulate renewable energy imports from North Africa, and it is considered crucial to enabling the EU to achieve its goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 55 percent by 2030, as published by Yale School of the Environment.
Morocco, the North African country furthest advanced on this road, is already exporting solar power to Europe via two existing power links with Spain. Last year it signed a new deal with the European Union to expand power exports. Egypt, host of the most recent UN climate conference (COP27) is considering three proposals for cables to link to Greece. Another planned submarine cable that would link new solar farms in the desert of southern Tunisia to Italy’s electricity grid has funding promised from the European Union (EU) and World Bank.
The biggest megaproject aims to lay the world’s longest high-voltage submarine cables for 2,300 miles from giant energy farms in the Moroccan desert past the Atlantic coastlines of Portugal, Spain, and France to southwest England, from where it could provide 8 percent of the United Kingdom’s electricity. The cost of the proposed 10,500-megawatt Xlinks project is expected to be $22 billion, half for the solar and wind energy farms and half for the cables. Xlinks executives say the cable could start delivering power as early as 2027 and be completed by 2030.
North Africa’s sometimes autocratic governments have already shown themselves adept at delivering rapid construction of large renewable-energy projects in the Sahara. Egypt’s 1,650-megawatt Benban solar park, near Aswan on the Nile River, was completed within two years of receiving funding.
But there are ethical concerns about Africa exporting so much power. Most people in Morocco and Egypt have electricity, but less than half the continent’s population is connected to reliable power grids. Critics also point to environmental and social concerns. Some of the planned renewable-energy hubs will cover hundreds of square miles, consuming precious desert ecosystems and fencing off seasonal grasslands vital to pastoralists. These often militarized zones will also block villagers’ routes to nearby towns and consume scarce water resources.
For the full article: Yale School of the Environment.