Solar power: Sorry, but the US is not tops here, for one thing Congress is still mired in recriminations about the loan guarantees that went to the bankrupt Solyndra. As for the Chinese, they have made rather more progress, to the point of allegedly “dumping” polysilicon solar panels on the US market.
But it’s the Germans who are really into solar. They claim to be the world’s biggest solar market at present. And they have just scored a major coup, as we hear from Die Welt:
Yes, there’s still a heck of a lot of oil in Saudi Arabia, but there is also quite a lot of sun constantly beating down on its desert sands. And the Saudi authorities are sensible enough to want to do something to exploit that. Well, that’s understating things somewhat: they want to invest $109 billion through 2032, so that by that time they want to be generating 25 gigawatts of power from solar-thermal plants, and a further 16 gigawatts from photovoltaics.
It’s a German “civil society initiative” called the Desertec Foundation (site in English) that is about to sign an agreement with the Saudi governement to be in on the ground floor of this effort, by establishing a Saudi company to be called “Desertec Power” whose mandate will be “above all planning, execution, local value-added [Wertschöpfung] and running the installations,” but also the “closely related themes of education, training and employment.”
Apparently Desertec Power will rely mainly on so-called Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technology, which is not photovoltaic but rather uses parabolic mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays in salt-water tanks and thereby store the energy, so that it’s available even when the sun goes down – and also can contribute in some way to providing desalinated water, another thing the Saudis prize highly.
You can click through to peruse the photo at the top of the article if you need some idea of what CSP arrays look like. (It’s a picture of them in Spain; they’re not yet in Saudi Arabia, the contract hasn’t even been formally signed!) Here in this post I’ll give you instead the grip-&-grin photo of the two principals in this deal. And just as with a Saudi official you can expect a name along the lines of Ahmed al-Malik (whom we see to the right, in Arab garb), with Germans I’m afraid you sometimes run the risk of silly-sounding names: that’s Dr. Thiemo Gropp to the left. And Thiemo has got the desert-dollars.