Talesun, Desertec and RWE – photovoltaic goes South

Since last week RWE is spreading the news that it has reversed it’s opinion on the efficiency of photovolatic power plants and now wants to take action in South Europe and North Africa. In an interview with the German Financial Times head of RWE Innogy Fritz Vahrenholt says: „Solar energy can be produced at costs of 10 to 12 Euro ct. per kWh in South Europe, in North Arfica even cheaper”. But the idea to use North Africa’s sun as energy source is not new. Desertec industry initiative GmbH (Dii), that consists of European and mainly German companies, seeks to combine generating energy from photovoltaic and solar thermal plants with wind energy facilities in North African countries.The coastal areas in Morocco and Tunisia have ideal conditions for generating wind energy. And the desert’s sun has a lot more power than in areas further north. „The deserts of the earth get as much energy in six hours as the world population needs in a whole year”, sais Dr. Gerhard Knies, chairman of the board of trustees at Desertec Foundation. This information raises hopes that the austerity of energy ressources could be dealt with on the long run if we use the sun’s power intelligently. But who guarantees the newly won energy’s fair distribution? Essentially the plan is to compenciate European austerity with Arfrican goods. Bitter is the taste of neocolonialism so how is it prevented?

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Desertec and with them their partner RWE vow to build a balanced partnership with Morocco and Tunisia and want to distribute the energy to those countries from which it is taken first. According to Dr. Frank-Detlef Drake, head of Research and Developement at RWE AG it is important, „that the desert’s energy is primarily used where it is produced, to avoid loss through transportation and to keep costs low. A ‘drainage’ directly from the Sahara to Germany would be the wrong move and a wrong signal”. This sounds well thought through, but tangible facts, that back this plan up are rather hard to get a hold onto. Desertec has twentyone members, only one of them is Moroccan and more than half of them are German. Facts like these weaken previously envisioned pictures of coequal partnership. It remains to be seen how this cooperation developes economically and sociopolitically. Numerous international partners, that this project already has, might lead the way to a fair and efficient relationship. To invest in North Africa’s sun definitely is a step towards future. Photovoltaic ventures in Europe pay off too. This chart shows that South Europe is very rich in sun. Rome, with a total of 1687 hours of sunshine per year, has the second highest score of sunconcentration in the whole of Europe – hence the longlasting and active photovoltaic market. Now RWE takes a second look to countries in the southern regions of Europe and wonders wether pv might bring some asset here. But this turnaround is almost is a little late. There are two that for sure already know what the South has on offer – Talesun and Calabria Solar. On May 22 they announced the successful launch of their 38 hectare pv-major in San Floro, Calabria with 23,8 megawatt. Calabria offers brilliant figures for solar energy production. Global irradiance settles at around 1.800 kilowatthours per squaremeter each year. The Talesun/Calabria Solar plant works at with an efficiency of close to 80 percent. Strongly convinced of Italy’s solar economy is Joachim Simonis, head of Talesun Solar-Germany GmbH „Italy is strategically important for the photovoltaik industry, from an investor’s perspective as well as from the production side.” Now his showcase project in Calabria will be the basis for new profitable plans – the increase of his team in Italy. To incorporate interntional and paneuropean cooperations in a business idea and expand these continuously is reality today, that pays off well. It is a reassurance that giant companies as RWE will be active partners of photovoltaic in future.

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Sources: RWE, FTD