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Sahara Solar To Power Half the World By 2050 363

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the gonna-need-a-longer-cable dept.
eldavojohn writes "A Japanese/Algerian effort called The Sahara Solar Breeder Project employs a simple concept revolving around the pure silica in the sand of the Sahara Desert. The silica can be used to build vast solar arrays which will then provide the power and means to build more solar arrays in a classic breeder model. They would then use DC powerlines utilizing high temperature superconductors. The lead of the project points out that silica is the second most abundant resource in the Earth's crust. The project's lofty goals to harness the Sahara's energy has a few requirements — including 100 million yen annually — but also the worldwide cooperation of many nations and the training of the scientists and engineers to create and man these desert plants. The once deadly wasteland of the Sahara now looks like a land rich in an important resource: sunlight."
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Sahara Solar To Power Half the World By 2050

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:00AM (#34417108)

    Now all we have to do is build a massive worldwide network of new transmission lines, stabilize the governments of Africa, and get every country in the world to agree on how the power is to be shared.

    • Gee, when you put it that way, it almost sounds hard.
    • by NevarMore (248971) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:08AM (#34417234) Homepage Journal

      Cheap electricity would go a long way to stabilize Africa.

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:12AM (#34417290)

        Well it certainly worked that way with the oil and diamonds.

        • by copponex (13876) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:24AM (#34417462) Homepage

          I think he's assuming that the Western governments don't purposefully impoverish the same nations again by forcing them into contracts that don't allow them any rights or infrastructure to process the finished goods themselves.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by operagost (62405)
            Yup. None of their problems have to do with local warlords and despots doing what they have done best for all of recorded history: steal, kill, and destroy.

            If you think pointing the finger at the west will solve all the world's problems, you might be a progressive.

          • by c6gunner (950153)

            So, just like with oil and diamonds?

            I'm pretty sure he's also assuming that the Western governments don't miraculously turn into butterflies.

        • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:47AM (#34417800) Journal
          Which is recognized widely as a missed opportunity. Countries like Norway or Saudi Arabia proved that when used correctly (ie. through state-controlled companies, yes), oil brings wealth to the citizens. IT doesn't do so automatically and it won't help solve human right issues, but when used correctly it is a great opportunity of development.

          The problem is not having valuable resources, it is having corrupted leaders to negotiate them. A good leader would use that as an opportunity to bring knowledge and business opportunities to its country. A corrupt one will just give you a free pass as long as you put 50 millions in his pockets every year.
          • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:19PM (#34418310)

            The state owned company is only the start. If, as you say, the state is corrupt, this just diverts the loot in a different fashion. Norway and Saudi Arabia work for opposite reasons. In Norway you have a working democracy in one of the least corrupt countries in the world, and one which has a strong sense of social coherence. Norwegians are happy to see the oil wealth as belonging to all Norwegians, because they all see themselves as part of the same "tribe". In Saudi Arabia, you have an absolute monarch in total control. The Saudi Royal family, consisting of a few thousand people, has a total grasp on the oil wealth, And, just as Norwegians are happy to share the wealth with other Norwegians, to sot prices are happy to share the wealth with other princes. Then, collectively, they decide how much wealth to allow to trickle down to the rest of the population, who had better look grateful for whatever they receive, or else.

            Possibly tribalism is the most destructive influence in Africa: everybody seems to think that different rules apply to fellow-tribesmen than apply to other tribes. In the West, we have managed largely to get our national boundaries to match our tribal ones - or vice versa. Where this is not true - e.g. former Yugoslavia - problems arise.

            • by idontgno (624372)

              everybody seems to think that different rules apply to fellow-tribesmen than apply to other tribes.

              You've pretty much summarized all human society and all human history. Societies succeed harmoniously only as well their members think of themselves all as "us". The moment you get a lot of "them", it's nowhere near as smooth.

              So, to bring it back on-topic... this will work well only if one "tribe" completely controls the electrical power production.

              I'm willing to bet the winning "tribe" won't be indigenous.

        • by wisty (1335733)

          Well it certainly worked that way with the oil and diamonds.

          Resources can increase or decrease stability. If the resources are easily exploited without a stable community then local warlords are able to profitably loot the country (which funds more guns and strife). If the resources need stability, then warlords won't be able to exploit them.

          There's a range of factors - infrastructure, energy, labor, water, and time requirements.

          Diamonds are a terrible resource, as they just require a few miners (who can be flown in from another country), and some digging machines.

        • by astar (203020)

          when you look for the slime aspects of capitalism, the first thing to look at is the speculators, but the second thing is the resource extractors. And the third thing is forcing nations into a agriculture only cash crop posture. So digging up diamonds is inferior to actually building stuff. Note that the slime behavior here I really falsely attribute to "capitalism", but I figure the parent poster has around this sort of stuff only reflexes, so why confuse him.

          Note that I do not claim that resource ext

      • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:13AM (#34417298)
        No it wouldn't. What's destabilizing Africa at this point is corrupt politicians and other government officials. Providing a huge pot of cash isn't going to help that. The assumption you're making only applies when it's incompetence causing the problems rather than corruption. If it were just incompetence that would eventually solve itself, all they'd have to do is ask for help from the outside world. With corruption there is an incentive to keep the people out that might threaten your cash stream.
      • I'd like to know your logic behind that.

        Cheap electricity will only be used to buy more guns.

        Much like how ANY OTHER exportable resource they have has been used.

      • by tverbeek (457094)

        Right, because cheap petroleum reserves have been so effective in stabilizing the Middle East.

        Somehow, I don't anticipate that "striking gold" in another poor, un-developed part of the world would turn out any better in the Sahara than it has in the Arabian Peninsula.

      • by lazn (202878) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:12PM (#34419252)

        Like how the cahora bassa Hydroelectric Dam stabilized Mozambique since it's construction in the 70's with enough power for all of southern Africa? Wait, the project was continually sabotaged, the north side never completed and the part that was finished ran at a mere fraction of it's capability for 30 years...

        Of course Africa's problems are all related to the lack of resources (on the most resource rich continent on the planet) and not politics at all, it can't possibly be politics at all.

      • by radtea (464814)

        Cheap electricity would go a long way to stabilize Africa.

        The rule of law would go a long way to stablize Africa.

        Unfortunately Africa is caught in a massive Prisoner's Dilemma: corruption is endemic, by most accounts, which means that there is very little upside to good government.

        Figuring out how to deal with these situations is one of the big problems of the 21st century, particularly as places like the US become more corrupt.

        India, on the other hand, seems to be becoming less corrupt, although god knows it has a lot of ground to make up. But it proves it is p

    • by Senes (928228)
      My proposal:

      Make it a private and isolated operation devoted to powering energy-intensive industries. One killer app for this would be making residential solar panels; instead of spreading out across the Sahara you distribute the production all over the world. All that's needed is a good cheap design that doesn't depend on too many exotic materials.
      • by rjstanford (69735)

        All that's needed is a good cheap design that doesn't depend on too many exotic materials.

        Oh, is that all? Although the good news is that that's all we need to solve world hunger as well...

      • by ultranova (717540)

        All that's needed is a good cheap design that doesn't depend on too many exotic materials.

        Don't use solar panels, use concentrating solar plants.

    • It would probably be easier to do the whole satellite power beaming thing and stationing mercenary troops to defend the collectors than to accomplish the first two; and just let That Lucky Old Sun choose who gets the power.
    • There are many ways to utilize it without running transmission lines. One simple idea is fuel cells, which would be best if they could also be manufactured out of mostly silica. If they hold their electric charge with enough efficiency, you could eventually have an all-electric transportation system, including the cargo ships used to deliver them worldwide.

      No countries have to agree on how to share power. They can either buy it from African nations or not. Until the United States gets involved, at least.

      • Lots of cheap cargo ships docking there in the Sahara. RU thinking of just opening up some canister and dumping a bunch of hot photons and electrons in there?

        Hey Ernie, got a coupla teracoulombs in there yet? The family joules?

        Gosh, look up in the sky-- is all that heat causing a bubble?

    • With the increasing desertification going around throughout the world, especially in Africa, the transmission line problem will shortly be a non-issue.

    • by DarthVain (724186) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:48AM (#34417822)

      The Splice Must Flow!

  • Yen (Score:5, Informative)

    by Idiomatick (976696) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:02AM (#34417132)
    100million yen is 1 million dollars...That really isn't much money.

    That said, the project is incredibly unrealistic, or at least the stated goal is.
    • by rjstanford (69735)

      Yup. That won't buy you much in the way of cutting-edge superconductive wiring.

    • Re:Yen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pushing-robot (1037830) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:24AM (#34417458)

      That's what they're asking for the five year "problem-solving phase", i.e. the engineers-doodling-on-a-whiteboard part. Still seems way too low, though, considering the scope of the project.

      Also, by "power half the world" I assume they mean "power the whole world for half the day", since even in the sahara the sun does occasionally set. IMO, a means of efficiently storing enough power to run half the world would be an even bigger feat than tiling the sahara with PV.

      • Also, by "power half the world" I assume they mean "power the whole world for half the day", since even in the sahara the sun does occasionally set. IMO, a means of efficiently storing enough power to run half the world would be an even bigger feat than tiling the sahara with PV.

        There are already fairly efficient large scale solar systems that work slowly enough that they generate power continuously, even at night. In fact, building on a large scale makes concentrators and sodium piles and the like much more cost effective than in traditional solar power generation.

    • by sean.peters (568334) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @02:32PM (#34420636) Homepage

      Can't see the video at work, so maybe I'm missing something. But this really seems like pie-in-the-sky to me. A couple of things:

      • Solar panels aren't made of silica, they're made of silicon. Sure, you make silicon from silica, but the process is very expensive and capital intensive. And the Sahara is kind of a tough place to do capital intensive stuff.
      • High temperature superconductors... where to start? For one thing, they're made of tremendously rare materials - things like ytrrium barium copper oxide. Again, very expensive. Also, "high-temperature" is a relative term - you still need to keep these things below about 100k, which is not much above the boiling point of nitrogen. Keeping long wires that cold is a tricky engineering problem. Finally, high temperature superconductor materials are notoriously bad at being wires: they're mostly quite brittle and hard to work into usable shapes.

      I'm not really sure why the organizers are determined to do this in the most difficult way possible. There's sand and sun all over the place, including many that are a lot closer to electrical markets (the US southwest, for example). So why not just build these things there and sidestep the whole issue of superconducting wires? This plan doesn't make sense to me.

      • by eth1 (94901)

        I'm not really sure why the organizers are determined to do this in the most difficult way possible. There's sand and sun all over the place, including many that are a lot closer to electrical markets (the US southwest, for example). So why not just build these things there and sidestep the whole issue of superconducting wires? This plan doesn't make sense to me.

        I've keep trying to figure out why everyone fixates on deserts, too. If you're going to use PV anyway, why the hell aren't you putting the panels as close as possible to where the power will be used? According to the solar radiation meter on a nearby weather station, there's about 100kW of energy hitting my roof around noon during the summer (sounds crazy, but the meter reads almost 1kW/m^2 during summer and 600W/m^2 during winter). Why not put PV (or mirrors for solar thermal, if the heart of the plant can

  • Why DC when AC is better for long distances?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:13AM (#34417302)

      AC is more stable over distance because DC has to compete against natural differences in ground voltage, but DC is better for really long distances as it is theoretically nearly lossless while AC loses proportional to the length of the cable.

      • by LordEd (840443)

        Lossless?

        V = IR

        Lets say your wire has .1 ohm every km of length. Transmit 1A over that distance.

        1 * .1 = .1V loss on that km. Transmit it 10 km. You'll drop 1V on the line.

        That, or bring out your theoretical 0 ohm wire.

        • by tuns1999 (1768020)
          from TFA "superconducting power lines kept cold by liquid nitrogen-a technology" or in other words the theoretical nearly zero ohm wire
        • That, or bring out your theoretical 0 ohm wire.

          You should at least read the article summary at the top of this page. (Hint: the wire *is* 0 ohms.)

        • by wgaryhas (872268) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:52AM (#34417876)
          AC and DC power lines both loose energy to resistance. AC power looses energy in another fashion due to capacitance and inductance called reactive power. By using superconductors (0 ohm resistance) for the power lines, you eliminate all losses for DC, most losses for AC, and introduce new losses for the cooling equipment. Of course, with superconductors the formula isn't as simple as V=IR because then you could get infinite current. (V/0 = I) With superconductors, there is a maximum current density (Amps per m^2 as the area of the cross section of the wire) before the wire starts to produce resistance.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            DC loses power through the ohms law

            AC can lose power thanks to being a nice antenna. If your transmission line becomes a nice multiple of the wave number, then you are fucked. Manitoba Hydro has the largest DC transmission lines in the world for long haul lines. When they started with AC, they suspected a slightly more loss until they powered them up. Turns out 1250km is a nice 1/4 wave number of 60Hz. So, they ended up with majority losses on the line. This is why long distance AC lines are a failure.

            Secon

        • by garyebickford (222422) <gar37bic.gmail@com> on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:51PM (#34418832)

          Actually the superconductors are not even needed. For high voltage long distance power transmission HVDC is very effective, relatively cheaper than AC, and quite common these days.

          See the 500 KV Pacific DC Intertie [wikipedia.org] between the Columbia River and Southern California. A friend of my family's was one of the engineers on that, the first such high voltage DC line built in the US. The technology mostly existed as far back as the 30s, and according to this article [wikipedia.org] several such systems were built in Europe in the 1950s. But HVDC really became most practical with the advent of large, fast stacked thyristors and other solid state controls (as discussed in Wikipedia).

          According to my friend, at these high voltages most of the power is transmitted in the field surrounding the wire, not the wire itself. However according to the above article, the key is the high voltage, which keeps resistance losses low - about 3% per 1000 km. Also underwater cables are often DC because an AC cable underwater would look like a very long capacitor, coupling to the conductive water outside the cable and losing large amounts of power.

          HVDC also has the advantage of eliminating the issue of synchronizing the AC signal across very long distances and between two dissimilar power systems.

          The HVDC article in particular goes into the pros and cons at great length.

      • by Framboise (521772)

        Remember superconductors have zero resistance.
         

      • by KDN (3283)

        AC and DC each have their problems. DC loss to AC during the Edison vs Tesla wars because the cables back then had too much resistence. AC also allows easy conversion to higher voltages to transmit the same power but with less current ( voltage drop is resistance times current, but power is voltage times current). AC has a problem of capicitance when you get to really large power transfers (the article was talking about A HUNDRED GIGAWATT output). For that you can use superconductors to do the transfer

    • No good reason (Score:4, Insightful)

      by name_already_taken (540581) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:23AM (#34417438)

      Why DC when AC is better for long distances?

      It's not - high voltage is better for long distances than low voltage, but it doesn't matter if it's AC or DC.

      AC is better because it can be run through a transformer and stepped up or down to different voltages for long distance or local distribution - it's the high voltage that's better for long distances because Power = Volts x Current, and wires carry voltage more easily than they carry current. The efficiency of the transmission line has nothing to do with wether the voltage is AC or DC, but everything to do with how high the voltage is.

      High voltage DC could be used, but before the advent of inverter technology there was no easy way to step a DC voltage up or down, so power generating utilities almost universally use AC.

      Using an ideal superconductor instead of normal metal wires would eliminate the resistive losses in the transmission line, but it sure sounds expensive.

      DC is used at some points in the power grid, presumably at interconnect sites where power from two or more generating facilities has to be combined and the AC voltages are out of phase or not at the same frequency.

      I honestly think the inclusion of superconductors is just to make the project more buzzworthy. There's no advantage to using high voltage DC especially when they're intending to run PV production plants off of it - A/C is much more useful in that case.

      At least Saharan Africa is more stable than sub-Saharan Africa politically. Haven't been there since the late 1970s, but it was a fun vacation.

      • This is one of (if not the) oldest hydroelectric power stations in the U.S. It's also a pretty cool bit of architecture on the river.

        I toured it about 15 years ago during a motorcycle trip and the guy said that they originally transmitted DC power and that they still did to a metal smelter downriver in Missouri as it was more efficient (no conversion losses) and the long-time customer was still setup to use it.

      • Re:No good reason (Score:5, Informative)

        by rufty_tufty (888596) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:03PM (#34418042) Homepage

        Long distance power transmission is almost always DC for a number of reasons The first of these is are in DC there are no induction losses. The alternating current along transmission lines will inductively couple to each other and provide a loss in a similar manner to the crosstalk you get in everything from digital circuits to audio cables. DC just doesn't lose power this way.

        AC is great for easy step up and step down in voltage, but it has a number of problems. In a transmission system you have two main limits, the maximum voltage you can use (limited by insulators used) and the I^2R losses in the cabling. Let's first assume no resistive losses or at least that you're not limited by heat loss: For a given cable and insulators you can therefore either run e.g. 1000V DC or 1000V AC Remember though that the AC is 1000V peak so the actual RMS voltage is effectively 1/sqrt(2) so 707V. Therefore for a given cable and insulator pair AC can carry less power.
        The only way to reduce the I^2R losses is to run at higher voltages where currents required are less so DC will always be superior here provided your inverter technology is sufficiently efficient. Which for lengths of more than about 20km starts to happen.

        What was true for the electrical systems of 20 years ago never mind back in the days of Edison is no longer the case, the AC vs DC situation is not as simple as it used to be.

    • by Smidge204 (605297) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:34AM (#34417608) Journal

      AC is actually NOT better for long (and I mean LONG) distances. Short to medium runs (dozens of miles) it's not too bad and the ability to efficiently change voltages with AC using transformers means you can keep current down and wire sizes small.

      AC won out in the beginning because there was no cost effective means to alter DC voltage between efficient transmission voltage and safe/practical usage voltage.

      However, wires have capacitance. Overcoming that capacitance requires energy, which is an inefficiency. When your cable goes from dozens of miles to hundreds of miles these losses become significant. DC doesn't have to deal with the capacitance issue, so it is actually more efficient here. Modern solid state power electronics also make changing DC voltages efficient and practical enough to use HVDC across long distances and Medium-Low Voltage AC for local distribution.

      Add superconductors to the mix and the advantage of DC increases substantially.

      Lastly, transmitting in DC solves problems with synchronizing and matching AC frequencies where otherwise independent grids interconnect. Each end of the DC link doesn't "see" or care about the frequency/timing of the other end.
      =Smidge=

      • by mdmkolbe (944892)

        DC also doesn't have to deal with keeping both ends of the transmission line in phase whereas AC does. This is why transmission lines over the rocky mountains are DC as the east and west US power grids are not phase synced.

        • The boundaries for the three synchronized regions in the US, and the HVDC interties between them, are all well east of the Rockies. TTBOMK, there are currently no HVDC links that cross the Rockies. The proposed Transwest Express project would cross the Rockies with HVDC in Wyoming, but with the intent of carrying Wyoming wind power west to Las Vegas and southern California, all within the Western Interconnection (much as the Pacific Intertie uses HVDC to transport hydro power from Oregon/Washington to LA)
      • by MattskEE (925706) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:33PM (#34419622)

        Disclaimer: I'm not a power engineer but I am an electrical engineer, so while the principles I state are probably correct there is some guesswork as I apply it to power transmission.

        However, wires have capacitance.

        Yes, all wires have a certain capacitance and inductance per length. Given the very wide separation between the power line and ground the capacitance per length should be very small, since it is inversely proportional per distance. Given the wide area the current encloses, the inductance will conversely be large. Therefore I would guess that the inductance of the transmission line is more important than its capacitance, and that it can be modeled primarily as a resistance in series with an inductance.

        Overcoming that capacitance requires energy, which is an inefficiency.

        Correct, though I'd like to add to that. An ideal capacitor is a lossless device (if you bring up the "two capacitor problem" note that by definition the capacitors or the wires connecting them cannot be lossless or it would never reach steady state). However in any AC transmission there will be conductor loss due to the resistance of the wire, possibly increased by skin effect, and dielectric loss due to the changing polarization of polar molecules in the dielectric surrounding the wire. Air is a virtually lossless dielectric. The wire's insulation is not going to be lossless, but since dielectric loss is usually proportional to frequency and 60Hz is very low frequency, and the insulator is small, I would guess that conductor loss dominates. And since frequency is very low skin effect may be negligible and we can just use the DC resistance.

        One more note is that most loads are inductive (ballasts for flourescent lights, motors for air conditioners, motors for industrial equipment, transformers, etc) and this is probably going to dominate the power factor of power transmission much more than the reactance of the power transmission lines themselves. That's why most load compensation is in the form of added shunt capacitance.

        Of course there are still many advantages of DC transmission, but for power lines on poles I wouldn't be convinced of frequency-dependent loss playing a large role unless I saw a full analysis.

    • by jbeaupre (752124)

      As AC transmission lines get longer, they become more efficient as radiating antennas. Capacitance loses add up too. A 600+ km is where it makes sense to use DC vs AC.

      Also, AC lines use high voltage to avoid loses, but that means transmission towers must be very tall to avoid capacitive lose to the ground. DC lines towers can be much shorter.

      In short, better efficiency, lower installation costs.

    • Why choose between AC and DC? Something wrong with AC/DC?
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:08AM (#34417218)
    Professor Koinuma is on the right track here. The Sun, being the most abundant source of renewable energy, is obviously the most efficient resource to power the world.

    We could power the world using only a fraction of the Earth's surface area. [landartgenerator.org]

    I really hope that this project succeeds, even if it is done on a smaller scale.
  • by mrex (25183) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:08AM (#34417222)

    Bless the Maker and His water^H^H^H^H^H photons.
    Bless the coming and going of Him.
    May His passage cleanse the world.
    May He keep the world for His people.

  • I wonder if the net warming from the captured and spent energy is greater than what is reflected by the sand (: Guess it would have to be pretty big to have an impact (but it would look awsome from space ;) ).
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:08AM (#34417232) Journal
    The thing is, it doesn't cost much to try. And if this thing works, it could be a huge boon for the world. We definitely need to ramp up production on solar to get extra energy. Surplus energy could be used for electric cars of the future. Electric cars could then transport goods cheaper than they do now, allowing for people with low income to afford transportation & food.
  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:10AM (#34417260)

    So, how long will this dream last after the first lawsuit to protect some insect local to the area to be covered by solar panels?

    Yes, it's not the USA, but the companies involved in the process will be first world companies, with all the potential for idiotic lawsuits implicit in first world sensibilities....

    • by cvtan (752695)
      Each grain of sand is unique and should be protected. Man should not kill grains of sand in order to selfishly extract their silicon without their permission. We in the SiliVegan organization object to the subjugation of sand for man's commercial use. Each grain has a soul that should be protected. Unless you get one in your eye 'cause that really hurts.
    • by digitaldc (879047) *
      The needs of the whole outweigh the needs of the individual lawyers, so they will LOSE
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      I am not an Ecco anything but to be honest this kind of thing statement seems so dumb that it makes my head hurt.
      Deserts are not useless. They are an ecosystem just like a rain forest, coral reef, river, or prairie.
      And at some point in history we have decided that the useless and dangerous rain forest needed to be cut down to make product farm land, the river needed to be dammed so the water wouldn't be wasted, the dangerous reef had to be cut so ship didn't wreck, and the useless barren prairie needed to b

    • by iceaxe (18903)

      Remember that sentiment when the Vogons arrive to create their galactic bypass.

  • First thing I thought of when I heard of this was the problem of distribution.

    The video suggests that it would ultimately supply energy "worldwide through DC power lines using high temperature superconductors".

    Uhmm... yeah, that's practical.

    Even if they did exist, which they don't and there's no indication that's liable to change anytime soon, I'm quite sure that high temperature superconductors would end up being INSANELY expensive due to demand, making their application for anything as large as som

    • As has been stated above several places, the superconductors aren't even required. I agree with those above who thought the superconductor bit was just to make the announcement buzzworthy. High voltage DC [wikipedia.org] transmission lines are in common use throughout the world. They typically run at 500KV and up, and can handle multiple megawatts each.

      If they really want to 'power 1/2 the world' then they'll need something bigger so _maybe_ superconductors would be cheaper than running many DC lines. I haven't read TF

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:26AM (#34417508) Homepage Journal
    Distributing energy from the Sahara to all the world will meet some resistance.
  • I'm glad to see an organization/company that is independent of 'Big Oil' move on this. You see the 'Big Oil' companies bragging about green energy this and that, but I think they get in on it to control yet another niche market/patents/technology that infringes on their income with the petroleum-based natural resources they pillage now. What has survived so far in this downed economy in the United States? Fuel, oil and cigarettes. I don't see the biggest renewable energy companies in the world changing

  • Morons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @11:29AM (#34417548)
    Sandstorm + Solar Array = ???
    • by digitaldc (879047) *
      Sandstorm + Solar Array = Highly-polished metal stumps
    • Re:Morons (Score:5, Informative)

      by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @12:09PM (#34418166) Journal
      If you look at his diagram, I think he is calling for teraforming of the desert to a forest of some sort. I think he's using solar arrays to desalinate water, and then use the electricity to irrigate the desert. I don't understand the whole thing, but teraforming the desert so there is no more sandstorms sounds more plausible than getting your equipment eroded by sandstorms.
  • Just a bigger dependence on foreign electricity, instead.

    At least oil can be stored efficiently and portably. So if your supplier decided to turn off the tap you still have enough reserves to bomb the crap out of them, sorry: that should read negotiate a new deal. With electricity, the moment they flip the switch, all the lights go out.

    • Electricity can also be stored. Well, not actually stored, but it can be converted into other forms that can be stored, and then converted back. There is an artificial lake not too far from here that has a dam at the bottom. When electricity is cheap, it pumps water up into the lake. When electricity is expensive, it runs the water through turbines and provides power to the grid. It can respond almost instantly to increased demand, while other power stations require minutes (or even hours) to ramp up t

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-replicating_machine [wikipedia.org]

    ...though the lack of variety in the materials at hand would hamper the effort a bit. still, fun to dream.

  • the Sahara now looks like a land rich in an important resource: sunlight and lots of mainly useless space.

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Thursday December 02, 2010 @01:10PM (#34419214) Homepage Journal
    I see two problems with this approach. First, there is not much point is using desert sand. Silicon can be shipped 200 times further than coal before you get close to the same energy loss. Take the silicon from where it is easiest. Also, take the process energy from where it is easiest, usually hydro power. No need for extra research. Second, there is no need for superconducting transmission. High voltage transmission will do the job. In that part of the world, solar islands may turn out to be the best approach: http://www.solar-islands.com/ [solar-islands.com]

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