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Sahara solar could soon rescue Britain’s broken energy system - Ambrose Evans Pritchard - 20.04.22

As ever when it comes to the debate on energy, the political and media class are still behind the curve.

Current policy - domestically produced solar, wind and nuclear - already looks redundant, according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in this week’s Telegraph.

The future is indeed solar. And wind. But not from the UK:

“Within five years, the world’s longest undersea cable will link Devon to a vast territory of solar panels in the Sahara Desert, supplying electricity directly into Britain’s grid at a fraction of today’s power prices.

A second cable will land two years later in 2029. Together they will provide 3.6 gigawatts (GW) of constant baseload power, equivalent to two Hinkley-sized nuclear reactors. The difference is that we will be able to afford it. That, at least, is the plan.

The £16bn Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project – chaired by former Tesco chief Sir Dave Lewis – has an elegant feature. It combines wind and solar in perfect geographic circumstances to make near-constant power for 20 hours a day.

Trade winds on the coast of North Africa raise the average “capacity factor” of onshore wind turbines to 54pc. A desert convection effect creates a regular wind current in the early evenings and smooths the handover from solar to wind.

“It picks up every afternoon just as the sun is setting,” said Simon Morrish, the project’s chief executive. This overcomes the curse of intermittency, with lithium batteries in the desert to cover the remaining gaps.”

Situated in the Sahara desert, the space to build the infrastructure is unlimited:

“The consortium is already planning a second hub to power Benelux. It could multiply the scale several times over for the UK, constrained only by the safe limits of energy security.”

And the power will reach our shores through cables manufactured here in the UK:

The power will reach Britain through a pair of HVDC cables (high-voltage direct current) developed by XLCC in Glasgow using British-made steel – probably made in Teesside – and laid by specially designed ships that will make the UK the world leader in undersea cable technology.

It will run along the seabed for 2,360 miles. This is four times more than the North Sea link to Norway, currently the world’s longest, which has just come into service on schedule and €300m under budget. It will be built by the same team. “We hope to break ground in September and start laying the first cable in 2025,” said Simon Morrish, the project’s chief executive.”

Even at this stage a superficial run on the numbers makes ‘big nuclear’ look cumbersome:

“The Xlinks Consortium is asking the Government for a CfD (contract for difference) supply deal at a strike price of £48 per megawatt hour for the first project. This compares to an inflation-adjusted price of £92.50 for Hinkley C, supposedly falling to the low £70s for Sizewell C and its successors, if they ever happen.

Wholesale “day-ahead” electricity prices have been near £240 over recent weeks, and year-ahead prices are around £200. So unless you think global energy prices are going to collapse and stay there – which they won’t after a seven-year drought in global energy investment – the Xlinks strike price is a reverse subsidy.”

There may be geo-political risks – from Arab terrorist cells in the region for example. But

“The larger point is that we are being catapulted into a new energy order. It will be based on renewable power wherever it is cheapest on the planet, and produced at colossal scale for transcontinental demand.”

The full article can be read below with a link to the original here:

Article by Ambrose Evans Pritchard for the Telegraph - Sahara solar could soon rescue Brit
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Solar mirrors at Morocco's Noor 1 Concentrated Solar Power plant CREDIT: FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images

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