The Independent reports that a proposed supergrid could supply Europe with carbon free electricity primarily from wind power. The 5,000-mile electrical grid, stretching from Siberia to Morocco and Egypt to Iceland, would slash Europe's CO2 emissions by a quarter, scientists say.
The scheme would make the use of renewable energy, particularly wind power, so reliable and cheap that it would replace fossil fuels on an unprecedented scale, serving 1.1 billion people in 50 countries. Europe's 1.25bn tons of annual CO2 output from electricity generation would be wiped out. High-voltage direct current (HVDC) lines, up to 100 times as long as the alternating current (AC) cables carried by the National Grid's pylons, would form the system's main arteries. HVDC lines are three times as efficient, making them cost effective over distances above 50 miles.
Building the supergrid would require an investment of US$80bn (£40bn), plus the cost of the wind turbines – a fraction of the €1 trillion the EU expects to pay for a 20 per cent reduction of its carbon footprint by 2020. The average price of the electricity generated would be just 4.6 euro cents per kWh, competitive with today's rates, which are likely to rise as fossil fuels run out. . . .
"We have the technical abilities to build such a supergrid within three to five years," said Czisch, an energy systems expert at the University of Kassel in Germany. "We just need to commit to this big long-term strategy."
The supergrid would draw power from massed turbines in a band of countries to Europe's south and east that have above average wind potential, feeding it to the industrialised centres of Europe. The scale would overcome the biggest obstacle to wind power – its unreliability. In smaller networks, such as Britain's National Grid, calm weather could cut production to zero. But the supergrid would cover a region so large that the wind would always be blowing somewhere.
A UPI article added:
Gregor Czisch’s dissertation has rattled the energy world. Its main claim: Given the political will, Europe could within a few years meet 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources, at no cost difference to today’s fossil fuel-based system.
. . . It would rely on some 70 percent wind energy, backed up by storage hydropower and biomass.
"Some of the best wind capacities lie in deserted areas, such as in Siberia, Kazakhstan and the Sahara," Czisch told UPI. "And then you have the coastal region of Morocco, which has excellent wind capacities."
Photovoltaics don’t play a major role in Czisch’s scenario because they are simply too expensive and because there are other, better sources available, including solar-thermal energy from southern Spain and the Sahara, for example.
Foreword thinking or an absurd suggestion? I don't know that DC lines are three times as efficient as AC lines, but that is a small point. Czisch didn't comment on superconducting transmission, previous post, for some of the main lines, which are higher efficiency and more importantly can conduct up to 10 times the amount of power of today’s conventional copper cables of the same size. The use of superconducting cable would slow down the project, as the production capacity is not available, but the three to five year construction time estimated for the project is much too optimistic, as no doubt is the US$80bn price tag. But despite all these negative comments, I think it would be a great project that could be built within 20 years. Getting the political will is the main problem.