Solar project Desertec plans to add five partners: CEO

Wed Feb 17, 2010 2:11pm GMT

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - Five companies from Morocco, Tunisia, Spain, France and Italy will join the Desertec solar power project that aims to supply 15 percent of Europe's power by 2050, chief executive Paul van Son said on Wednesday.

Founded by 12 mostly German companies last year, the 400 billion euro project will use mirrors to harness the sun's rays to produce steam and drive turbines for electricity generation in the Sahara region.

The new participants will be announced in March, van Son said, adding there was no shortage of companies interested in joining the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) which was created last year.

"The more the merrier," said van Son, 56, who before his appointment to lead DII in October had headed the European Federation of Energy Traders.

"We want to make it more of an international project," he said, addressing the concern that it has until now been mostly a German initiative with 10 German firms, but only one Spanish and one Algerian company on board.

"With the new partners we'll have a broader base. That's important for acceptance. It's important that we have companies involved from MENA countries (Middle East and North Africa)."

The 40-year plan to power Europe with Sahara sunlight has gained momentum, he said. The world's most ambitious solar power project would advance in stages with the first phases operational within a decade.

Fields of mirrors in the desert would gather solar rays to boil water, turning turbines to electrify a new carbon-free network linking Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.   Continued...

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