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What’s stopping us getting solar power from deserts?

Mark Jansen, the ecologist
Plans to use concentrating solar power plants in the Sahara to generate and export electricity have been on the table for years. Now, it looks as though political will might help move things forward

The logic of the idea would seem obvious to a child: the human race needs to wean itself off fossil fuels, so why don’t we build solar power plants in the world’s deserts, to give us all the energy we need?

This concept has long been promoted by Desertec, a European network of scientists and engineers, which argues that just 1 per cent of the surface area of the world’s deserts could generate as much electricity as the world is now using.

…The European Union is aiming to provide 20 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and a much higher percentage by 2050. With this in mind, the European Commission has begun drafting the Strategic Energy Technology Plan, which will attempt to explain how renewable technologies can be made mature enough to supply a large part of Europe’s total energy needs by 2050.

The SET Plan, as its known, is still in its early stages, but Desertec is part of the deliberations. Gus Schellekens, a director in the sustainability and climate change team at business advisors PriceWaterhouseCoopers, sees the SET Plan as a tentative first step towards the kind of European unity needed to make Desertec a reality….
(10 February 2010)

Norway plans the world’s most powerful wind turbine

Relax Newsvia the Independent
Norway plans to build the world’s most powerful wind turbine, hoping the new technology will increase the profitability of costly offhsore wind farms, partners behind the project said Friday.

With a rotor diametre of 145 metres (475 feet), the 10-megawatt protype will be roughly three times more powerful than ordinary wind turbines currently in place, Enova, a public agency owned by Norway’s petroleum and oil industry ministry, said.

The world’s largest wind turbine, 162.5 metres (533 feet) tall, will be built by Norwegian company Sway with the objective of developing a technology that will result in higher energy generation for offshore wind power.

It will first be tested on land in Oeygarden, southwestern Norway, for two years….
(16 February 2010)
Hopefully there will be better coverage of this topic soon! -KS

It’s Green Against Green In Mojave Desert Solar Battle

Todd Woody, yale environment 360
Few places are as well suited for large-scale solar projects as California’s Mojave Desert. But as mainstream environmental organizations push plans to turn the desert into a center for renewable energy, some green groups — concerned about spoiling this iconic Western landscape — are standing up to oppose them.
by todd woody

Twenty years ago when an epic clash over the logging of ancient redwood forests roiled California, the battle lines were clear-cut.

On one side stood a Texas corporate raider who acquired the Pacific Lumber Co. in a junk bond-fueled takeover and began felling vast swaths of primeval redwoods to pay off the debt. On the other side was Earth First! and other grass-roots greens who staged a campaign of civil disobedience to disrupt the logging. And while mainstream environmental groups may have looked askance at such tactics, they supported the cause in the courts, suing to stop the clear-cutting of ancient trees.

Today, another monumental environmental fight is unfolding in California over plans to build dozens of multi billion-dollar solar power plants in the Mojave Desert that could power millions of homes. But in this battle everyone is wearing green — from the solar developers seeking to generate carbon-free electricity, to feuding factions of environmentalists split over developing the desert.

The Mojave has become a metaphor for an existential crisis in the environmental movement as it tries to balance the development of renewable energy with its traditional mission to protect ecosystems. In For some, the desert is untouchable; for others, it’s a resource to be tapped. recent years, the movement’s focus on wildlife, habitat preservation, and pollution has been eclipsed by the climate change imperative. National groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Sierra Club have joined with the more forward-looking members of the Fortune 500 to push cap-and-trade legislation and other climate-change initiatives and to promote alternative energy…
(10 February 2010)