The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: How much solar energy could the Sahara desert produce if covered in solar cells?  (Read 33523 times)

Offline george

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 75
    • View Profile
Since the Sahara is a very sunny place, is currently unused by anybody and probably doesn't have too many planning regulations, assuming we could exploit it, how much solar energy could it yield, and what would be the best way to collect this energy i.e. solar cells, Stirling engines, Venturi effect generators etc?

George


 

Offline Heliotrope

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 151
    • View Profile
    • http://www.davethedrummer.com
Assuming you could overcome the limitations of the shifting sand etc...

Sahara desert area = 9x10^6 km^2
Let's assume 50% of it is too difficult to put panels on.
Useable area = 4.5x10^6 km^2

...Actually forget the calculation. I found a reference :

Quote from: Wikipedia
In the Sahara desert, with less cloud cover and a better solar angle, one can obtain closer to 83 W/mē. The unpopulated area of the Sahara desert is over 9 million kmē, which if covered with solar panels would provide 750 terawatts total. The Earth's current energy comsumption is around 13.5 TW at any given moment (including oil, gas, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric power).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_array#_note-0
 

Offline realmswalker

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 205
    • View Profile
Lets start an organization dedicated to covering the Sahara with solar panels!!!!!!!!
 

Offline Heliotrope

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 151
    • View Profile
    • http://www.davethedrummer.com
Good plan.
All we need to do it get permission from :

Algeria
Libya
Tunisia
Mauritania
Western Sahara
Mali
Niger
Chad
Sudan
Egypt
Morocco

You get them to agree and you're laughing.

 

Offline Heliotrope

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 151
    • View Profile
    • http://www.davethedrummer.com
Oh, and by the way...
Where will all the electricity be used when it's generated by all of these independent, sovereign nations ?
Are you assuming they will simply hand it over to the West ?

 

Offline pavlovs dog

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 6
    • View Profile
Yes Heliotrope, if you wanted to make some sort of profit from the energy produced, but isn't the point of solar energy to produce "clean" energy - by clean i mean no carbon emissions and no physical resource from the earth?
Lets face it all ye tax payers. electricity is never going to be free. If the Sahara was producing all of the earths electrical needs(assuming we found an efficient way to clear all the dust off from the PV cells and found funding for it all) all of the sovereign nations, who are mostly struggling LEDC's, will have a source of money and possible jobs. It wouldn't make a difference if they owned it or not. They would sell the energy to the national grid to improve their economy and I'm sure that they want the earth to last long enough for their far future generations to live in.
nonetheless, using the whole of the Sahara for PV cells is quite drastic and would cause a number of ecological and ethical problems...

from Pavlov's dog himself! ;D
 

Offline Soul Surfer

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3345
  • keep banging the rocks together
    • View Profile
    • ian kimber's web workspace
It is interesting to note that the major substance used for solar cells is silicon a major constiruent of the sand.  What is needed is to design a self powered locally operated process for manufacturing solar cells out of the local material that can also replicate itself from local materials and given a few years we have the problem toally sorted out!
 

Offline neilep

  • Withdrawnmist
  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 20602
  • Thanked: 8 times
    • View Profile
How much energy, resources, would it take to manufacture and install enough Solar Panels to cover the Sahara ?
 

Offline Karen W.

  • Moderator
  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *****
  • Posts: 31653
  • Thanked: 5 times
  • "come fly with me"
    • View Profile
 I could not even imagine..
 

Offline neilep

  • Withdrawnmist
  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *******
  • Posts: 20602
  • Thanked: 8 times
    • View Profile
I am just wondering how long it would take before we get some dividend in the way of free energy after the time and energy and resources that it will cost to set the thing up in the first place .

There will have to be a vast infrastructure created to distribute the energy too...

 

Offline Karen W.

  • Moderator
  • Naked Science Forum GOD!
  • *****
  • Posts: 31653
  • Thanked: 5 times
  • "come fly with me"
    • View Profile
That is a good question.. Haow would they keep the panels free from sand etc.. Seems like and impossible job... Would the units have to be sealed within some lkind of case so that pitting from the sand would not occur or would that have no effect on the solor panel?
 

paul.fr

  • Guest
I am just wondering how long it would take before we get some dividend in the way of free energy after the time and energy and resources that it will cost to set the thing up in the first place .

There will have to be a vast infrastructure created to distribute the energy too...




Quite a while, if ever. Sellafield was supposed to produce free or "too cheap to meter" electricity!
 

Offline syhprum

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 3823
  • Thanked: 19 times
    • View Profile
I always thought that the primary purpose of Sellafield was to produce Plutonium for bombs and electricity production was a bit of a myth
 

Offline Batroost

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 276
  • There's no such thing as a dirty atom!
    • View Profile
Ok. A little confusion here...

Sellafield is a big place. Amongst other things it includes:

- the windscale piles which were plutonium producing (only)
- Calder Hall whose MAGNOX reactors produced both plutonium and electricity for fifty years
- The Windscale AGR - prototype advanced gas reactor (electricty producing)
- Lots of reprocessing, vitrification and waste handling plant including THORP (Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant) used to reprocess both AGR and light water fuel.

Incidentally, the line "too cheap to meter" was used about the 'civil' reactors at Calder Hall when they were officially opened in 1956.
 

Offline heusdens

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
Lets start an organization dedicated to covering the Sahara with solar panels!!!!!!!!

Such an organisation already exists!

newbielink:http://www.trecers.net/ [nonactive]
 

Offline heusdens

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 2
    • View Profile
That is a good question.. Haow would they keep the panels free from sand etc.. Seems like and impossible job... Would the units have to be sealed within some lkind of case so that pitting from the sand would not occur or would that have no effect on the solor panel?

Interesting question, but solvable in my opinion.
You would not just create electricity but also use these plants (preferably concentrated solar power plants) also to desalinate water.
The water can be used to grow plants.
You would just need to take an area and protect it with dunes,and irriate the dunes to grow plants on them , so the sand won't be blown away.

But realistically seen such plants won't be built in the middle of the Sahara, but somewhere near the coast.
 

paul.fr

  • Guest
That is a good question.. Haow would they keep the panels free from sand etc.. Seems like and impossible job... Would the units have to be sealed within some lkind of case so that pitting from the sand would not occur or would that have no effect on the solor panel?

Interesting question, but solvable in my opinion.
You would not just create electricity but also use these plants (preferably concentrated solar power plants) also to desalinate water.
The water can be used to grow plants.
You would just need to take an area and protect it with dunes,and irriate the dunes to grow plants on them , so the sand won't be blown away.

But realistically seen such plants won't be built in the middle of the Sahara, but somewhere near the coast.

They can be sealed, but i forget how. Although this is not realy a problem, if you assume that to save energy and cost the units are made on site using local labour andmaterials it would be just as cheap to manufacture and replace the units when that is needed.
 

another_someone

  • Guest
They can be sealed, but i forget how. Although this is not realy a problem, if you assume that to save energy and cost the units are made on site using local labour andmaterials it would be just as cheap to manufacture and replace the units when that is needed.

Sealing them will not be a problem, but the problem is, whether they are seeled or not, if they get covered in sand, then it will stop the sunlight getting to them.

Nor can they simply be made on site.  Making solar panels is like making any other silicon based electronic device, it needs ridiculously pure silicon made in ultra clean rooms.

One also has to look at the environmental impact of covering a significant proportion of the Sahara in black silicon panels.

One also has to look at all those countries that are currently providing oil, countries from Venezuela, to Nigeria, to Indonesia, to the Caucuses.  How will they react to having to buy energy from the Sahara region?  Ofcourse, many of them have almost as much sunlight as the Sahara region, but to utilise it, they would need to cut down lots of forest - but if they don't have the money to pay for Electricity from Morocco or Libya, what are they going to do?

Aside from coverring the Sahara in silicon panels, how are you going to get the electricity to the markets?  Are you going to cover the rest of the world in very very think aluminium transmission cables (for Scandinavia to get its electricity from the Sahara, it will have to traverse the whole of Europe; and for the Americas, that will mean a very very thick transatlantic cable that needs to be laid and maintained).  All o this cable will have resistance, which will cause power to be lost as heat, and as massive electromagnetic fields around the cables.  The other option is to convert the solar power into chemical energy (e.g. some sort of hydrocarbon), and then ship it as we presently ship oil.

Finally, even if the electricity is made in
 

paul.fr

  • Guest
Sealing them will not be a problem, but the problem is, whether they are seeled or not, if they get covered in sand, then it will stop the sunlight getting to them.

Nor can they simply be made on site.  Making solar panels is like making any other silicon based electronic device, it needs ridiculously pure silicon made in ultra clean rooms.


Why not? I simply state that they are made on site, that does not refer to some grotty shed in the desert. On site, in a factory based in the area, for practical reasons of repair and relacement as opposed to overseas and shipping them in.

 

Offline nebular

  • First timers
  • *
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
This is a wonderful idea, unfortunately not without many of the issues raised to overcome, political, withstandable technology produced in clean conditions, maintenance. Also delivering the electricty to continents around the globe.  Ideally it would be great to see North Africa and the Western Med using it as their energy sustainance, but for America Asia or Europe, it seems we will have to go for More windfarms and radicalisation in the prevention of the offsets we produce,.
 

lyner

  • Guest
If you just PAINTED the Sahara (etc) silver / white, you would significantly  reduce the  amount of received solar energy and reduce the problem of global warming. That's about as low tech as you can get and it might counteract the effect of the depletion of the nice white, reflecting polar ice caps.
 

Offline lightarrow

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 4586
  • Thanked: 7 times
    • View Profile
If you just PAINTED the Sahara (etc) silver / white, you would significantly  reduce the  amount of received solar energy and reduce the problem of global warming. That's about as low tech as you can get and it might counteract the effect of the depletion of the nice white, reflecting polar ice caps.
But in this way you would kill us all because of the amount of solvent dispersed in air... ;)
 

lyner

  • Guest
If you used spray paint, perhaps. Good old whitewash uses water as a solvent.
(There's always ONE isn't there?)
Actually, my suggestion is more or less serious. Global warming can be tackled in many ways - not mutually exclusive.
This would be very low tech and anyone can help. White roofs on all our houses would reflect a good few hundred watts and would help reduce radiated heat loss in winter.
Now where's my ladder?
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 2331
  • KIS Keep It Simple
    • View Profile
Let's start a group aimed at covering the Sahara desert in tropical rainforest.
Using waste water from Europe in Returning Oil Tankers that curently transport seawater as balast half way round the world for nothing.

http://andrewkfletchers.blogspot.com/
 

Offline Pumblechook

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 569
    • View Profile
It would be very expensive electricity before you even consider the cost of getting the power to where it is needed.

 

The Naked Scientists Forum


 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums