Huge Tunisian Solar Park Hopes to Provide Saharan Power to Europe

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

An enormous solar park in the Sahara could soon be exporting electricity to Europe if Tunisia’s government approves an energy company’s request to build it.

The 4.5GW mega-project planned by TuNur would pipe electricity to Malta, Italy and France using submarine cables in the grandest energy export project since the abandoned Desertec initiative.

Kevin Sara, TuNur’s chief executive said: “If European governments take the Paris accord seriously and want to meet the less than two degrees target for global warming, we need to start importing renewables.”

“60% of Europe’s primary energy is currently imported from Russia or the Middle East. Does the EU really want to be investing in infrastructure that lasts 50 years but which just enables more fossil fuel use?”

The EU is already considering awarding priority status to an underwater cable linking Tunisia with Italy, and TuNur expects construction work on a €5bn plant to begin by 2019 in southwest Tunisia.

“We would target delivering power to the European grid via Malta by 2021,” Sara said. The following year, the first of two cables to Italy could be laid, with a French connection up and running by 2024, he added.

The resulting solar complex would sprawl over an area three times the size of Manhattan, harnessing the power of the Saharan sun with several towers up to 200m tall.

These would reflect sun rays on to hundreds of thousands of parabolic mirrors, heating molten salts that would in turn boil water, generating enough steam to power turbines that could electrify two million European homes.