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Salzburger Fenster, Nr. 40-2007


Wind Power could solve all energy problems

German physicist presents a new energy concept with only wind and sun


The German physicist Gregor Czisch presented a provocative energy concept at a symposium in Salzburg. With solar- and wind energy, Europe’s energy problems could be easily solved.


“Only a large-scale cross-linking, international and even intercontinental cooperation make it possible to provide low priced electricity solely produced by renewable energies for all of Europe and its neighbors.” Czisch said recently at the symposium in Salzburg. Czisch’s strong statements are the result of a perennial research project at the Institute for “Solar energy supply technology” (Institut für Solare Energieversorgungstechnik) at the University of Kassel. The physicist is thinking of a cross-linked region from Siberia to North Africa with a total of 1.1 billion inhabitants. Somewhere in this region, the wind always blows and the sun always shines, both very powerful. A “super grid” is to make the power transportation possible over thousands of kilometers from the border of the Sahara in Morocco and Mauritania all the way to Northern Europe.


Power from the Sahara is sufficient for all of Europe


A Super Grid for 1,1 billion people is supposed to make it possible


The German physicist Gregor Czisch is provoking the power companies as well as the supporters of strictly decentralized alternative energies. He advocates wind- and solar electricity from Morocco, Mauretania, Siberia, Kazakhstan or Egypt. The potentials are inexhaustible, their use possible in a cost-effective way.


“Yes, it works! Europe’s supply with electricity is possible with existing technologies and maintainable cost entirely without the use of nuclear-, coal burning-, oil or gas-fired power plants.” The German physicist Gregor Czisch is provoking not only the nuclear and fossil energy lobby with his detailed studies about the possibilities of an intercontinental cross-linked use of wind- and solar electricity. He also challenges the supporters of an alternative, climate-neutral and nuclear-free electricity supply to rethink. Their idea of a strictly decentralized and small-scaled supply was unsustainable. “Only large-scale cross-linking, international and even intercontinental cooperation make it possible to provide low priced electricity solely produced by renewable energies for all of Europe and its neighbors.” Czisch said recently at a symposium on the occasion of the “Nuclear Free Future Award” in Salzburg.



Czisch’s strong statements are the result of a perennial research project at the “Institute for Solar energy supply technology” (Institut für Solare Energieversorgungstechnik) at the University of Kassel. The physicist is thinking of a cross-linked region from Siberia to North Africa with a total of 1.1 billion inhabitants. Somewhere in this region, the wind always blows and the sun always shines, both very powerful. In this large area not only the most economic locations can be used, but also the seasonal and daytime variations, which are a problem with the renewable energies, can be smoothed out.


More wind at the ideal season


Germany and Spain are already considered model countries in the use of wind energy. The North Sea, England, Scotland and Ireland are additional European hopeful-regions for wind. However, Czisch has in his study not only processed meteorological data from Europe, but has also steered his vision beyond its borders. And there, the wind blows even stronger.


German wind power stations run on average 1600 full load hours per year. In Ireland and England, it could be on average 2700, in the steppes of Kazakhstan up to 4000. At the west coast of the Sahara, in Morocco and Mauretania it would be on average 3000 to 3400 and well above 4000 on good wind sites. In local ideal offshore locations, it could be, according to the German Wind Energy Institute (DEWI) even up to 4500 full load hours.


Two further advantages of the “border regions” come additionally. They are sparsely populated or deserted. Conflicts of resources, which in the densely populated Europe present a hindrance for the development of wind energy, are barely existent in the deserts and steppes. Even more important for Czisch are the seasonal compensating effects. Wind parks in the North Sea, in Germany, in England or Ireland deliver the most electricity in Winter, those on the western edge of the Sahara on the other hand run at full speed during Summer.


Covering 100 times of the European power requirement


Presently the EU-15-countries consume around 2350 Terawatt-hours of electricity a year. For Czisch’s researched wind-hopeful-regions that would be peanuts: “The regions in North Russia with North-West Siberia, North-West Africa and Kazakhstan offer each a multiple of the potential, which would be necessary for a electricity generation of the size for the EU-electricity consumption.” In theory – “if only areas are accounted for, on which capacities of more than 1500 full load hours are to be expected, 120,000 to 240,000 Terawatt hours of wind power could be generated. That complies with about 100 times of the EU-15-electricity demand.” To that effect, for the actual consumption only the very best locations would be necessary. A further advantage Czisch sees in the development leap for the countries of North Africa, which would be far beyond of what could be achieved with development aid. Economy, Technology and infrastructure would profit, and all of North Africa could be supplied with low priced electricity out of their own renewable resources.


A Super Grid over thousands of kilometers is to make the transportation of electricity possible – from the border of the Sahara in Morocco and Mauretania to the North of Europe. HVDC is the magic formula: high-voltage direct-current transmission systems.” These can transport large amounts of electricity over far distances with small transmission loss. “That is already a proven technology”, so Czisch. He refers to examples such as China. There, Siemens completed an over 900 kilometer-long HVDC-line already in 2005. It transmits without problem an electric capacity of 3000 Megawatt from the West to the South of China. Currently Siemens is building an HVDC-line in China for 5000 Megawatt over the distance of 1400 kilometers. Further, there are many HVDC-projects around the world transmitting for decades, dozens of Gigawatt over far distances at low costs and low losses.


Even distances of over 5000 kilometers do not scare the physicist. With HVDC technology, wind and solar power could also be transported, cost-effectively with today’s prices of the components used, from the border of the Sahara first to the bordering Spain and then on to Central Europe.


Supplementation through sun, hydro-power & bio mass


In Czisch’s base scenario, wind energy provides with two thirds by far the largest portion of the power. However, hydropower, especially out of storage hydropower stations, is to play a substantial additional part. Especially with renewable energies, with their fluctuating power generation, the systematically adjustable part of the park of power plants increasingly gets the function to compensate for shortages. For this, “especially quickly adjustable power plants like the storage power stations are necessary.” For it, Czisch especially has his sight on the already existing storage hydropower stations in Norway and Sweden. The Scandinavian “NORDEL-Network” with its storage capacity of 120 Terawatt-hours “could play a very important part in a high-capacity European network system.”


Another extension to wind would be solar power, obtained in big parabolic trough power plants, also in the desert regions of North Africa. Parabolic trough power plants work similar to the principle of conventional caloric power plants through the generation of water vapor. Contrary to caloric power plants, here the water is heated with solar energy.


Large-scale designed parabolic trough power plants can be equipped with large heat storages. The advantage is that these power plants cannot only generate electricity in the daytime with solar radiation, but also subsequently at night. That way, according to Czisch, „at no time would the solar generated heat have to stay unused“. The solar electricity potential in the Sahara is gigantic: “The desert regions of North Africa provide with the use of this technology a potential, which allows around 500 times the production of the electricity consumption of the EU Member States.”


However, these advantages as well can only be implemented optimally within the intercontinental network. The production of the parabolic trough power plants also seasonally decreases in North Africa due to the low incidence angle of the solar radiation. Thereby, according to Czisch, “solar thermal energy alone is not well suited to follow the course of the European energy consumption.” The parabolic trough power plants in the Sahara would therefore be most advantageous “in combination with the European wind power generation.”


Biomass power plants can take the role of a third complement in Europe. The electricity generation from wood, straw, etc. is more expensive than the other average electricity production costs in Czisch’s scenario, but contributes through its “backup-suitability” – meaning the good controllability, independent of seasonal or daytime fluctuations – substantially to the cost minimizing of the overall system.”


Even economically more cost-effective


Gregor Czisch calculated on today’s price basis the production plus transmission costs to Europe for wind power from the best sites in Egypt with an average production of 5000 full load hours per year at 3.5 cent per kilowatt-hour.


For the entire scenario, with the supplementations of solar power from Parabolic trough power plants, as well as electricity from European storage, Biomass and wind power stations, it would be 4.65 cent per kilowatt-hour. That would already be “very close to today’s general price for conventionally produced electricity.” The little additional burden – in Germany for example 3 per mill of the gross national product – was “in consideration of the climate- and resource problems rather insignificant.


If in addition one brings into account the price cuts, which are with the set courses and the contract volume of this dimension realistically expectable, “a fully renewable supply is conceivable, which is even less expensive than today’s electricity supply and after the latest price increases of conventional electricity it is questionable whether there was still any additional cost of the renewable electricity or if we should speak about cost reduction by a real climate change mitigation via a renewable electricity supply within a Trans-European Supergrid.”


Heinrich Breidenbach, Salzburger Fenster 40/07, 28.11.2007


Translated by Wibke von Flemming and reviewed by Heinrich Breidenbach, 18.12.2008


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