Germany Looks to North Africa's
Untapped Solar Thermal Potential
September 27, 2007 - Jane Burgermeister
A study by the German Aerospace Center estimated
that harnessing the sun's energy falling on just 6,000
square kilometers of desert in North Africa would
supply energy equivalent to the entire oil production
of the Middle East of 9 billion barrels a year.
"We increased the reflectivity
of our mirrors by using better raw glass quality.
The more transparent the glass, the higher the
reflectivity value. We use an extremely transparent,
white type of glass."
Thomas Deinlein, Flabeg
The study calculated that solar thermal power plants
could supply 68 percent of North Africa's as well
as Europe's electricity by 2050.
One company planning to take advantage of this untapped
potential is Flabeg, a German-based manufacturer of
parabolic trough mirrors for solar thermal power plants.
The company recently developed a mirror that can reflect
93 percent of the sun's rays.
The improved mirror can concentrate 99% of the sun's
radiation onto an absorber tube with a diameter of
70 mm or less.
Flabeg said that it expects to sell its high precision
mirrors in Spain and North Africa as the solar thermal
power plant market starts to take off in Europe.
The company is set to deliver 210,000 of the high
precision mirrors to the 50 megawatt (MW) solar thermal
power plant Andasol II, in Spain - the biggest in Europe - by
the end of June 2008.
Flabeg has already equipped the 50 MW Andasol I solar
thermal plant with 210,000 RP 3 mirrors.
"We increased the reflectivity of our mirrors by
using better raw glass quality," Thomas Deinlein from
Flabeg told RenewableEnergyAccess.com. "The more transparent
the glass, the higher the reflectivity value. We use
an extremely transparent, white type of glass."
It is estimated that a 50 MW solar power plant can
generate 5 million kilowatt-hours more of electricity
for every extra 1 percent of sunlight that is collected
by solar mirrors.
Europe's first commercially operating solar thermal
tower plant went into operation in Sevilla, Spain
generating 11 MW of electricity in April. Plans are
in place for building more solar power plants able
to generate a total of 300 MW of electricity, enough
to supply the city of Sevilla.
Also, European research organizations, including
the German Aerospace Center, are testing different
types of solar thermal technology at an experimental
solar thermal plant called the Plataforma Solar de
Almeria in Spain.
In addition, the German Aerospace Center has built
an experimental solar thermal tower power plant in
Julich, Germany, that is due to come into operation
in 2008 and that will be able to generate 1.5 MW of
In Julich, 16,000 m square of mirrors will track
the sun and concentrate solar radiation onto a tower
to heat up the air, generate steam and drive a turbine.
The Julich plant will be used to test solar thermal
tower power plant technology with a view to developing
prototypes for 10 to 50 MW power plants that can be
built in South Europe and North Africa.
The German Aerospace Center plan envisages building
solar thermal power plants of between 50 and 200 MW
in size in different locations across North Africa.
Cables to transmit electricity from North Africa to
Europe have already been built under the sea.
If this vision becomes a reality, it is estimated
that North Africa can produce 2 to 3 times more solar
thermal electricity than Europe.
Jane Burgermeister is a freelance writer based in