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Just watch War on Want here

This doesn’t bode well for reporting standards:

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.

That’s all fine of course, we should be getting solar energy from where there’s lots of solar energy. I have no idea about the engineering or economics here but I do sorta expect that trade is going to work, as it does with all other scarce resources.


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 broil water, generating enough steam to power turbines that could electrify two million European homes.

No, the mirrors reflect onto the towers. Well done Grauniad journo there. And this is the really fun part:

“It seems that a familiar ‘colonial’ scheme is being rolled out in front of our eyes,” said Hamza Hamouchene, War on Want’s North Africa and West Asia officer.

“Projects like TuNur deny local people control and access to their land, rob them of resources and concentrate the value created in the hands of domestic and foreign predatory elites and private companies.”

More interested in Trot politics than economic development then, are we? Now there’s a surprise from War on Want, isn’t there?

37 thoughts on “Just watch War on Want here”

  1. allthegoodnamesaretaken

    If this land was so valuable it would surely have been put to more profitable use?

    War on Wankstains more like…

  2. Noel,

    That is exceptional, even from him.

    He doesn’t quite say “We must threaten to withhold aid until they change their laws in some unspecified but Murphy-written way”, but he goes a long way to implying it.

    I think this demonstrates that his “extermination camp tourism” wasn’t actually as low as it is possible, even for a professional turd like him, to go. A truly horrid, and horrifying, individual.

    Even if the heights of his public exposure were simply as the grossly revolting Treasurer of the local model railway society, he would still be a stain on British society.

  3. Will the real greens stand up and fight the frying of migratory birds across this monster? Or that decaying mirrors leech toxic minerals into the soil beneath permanently contaminating it? Or that covering an area with such a huge plant destroys everything else? Or that the electricity generated will be intermittent and create power surges? To think that habitat conservation and cleaning up pollution were once founding principles!

  4. The trick with solar -powered molten salt electricity generation is keeping the salt molten when the sun isn’t shining – like the 12 hours in every 24 when it’s dark in the tropics. That conundrum of course is additional to the hazard to migrating birds and hunting hawks flying over the site – they’ll get mass broiled, but to the dedicated ecofreak an avian holocaust counts as collateral damage. We’re Saving The Planet For The Children!

  5. Bloke in North Dorset


    The electricity will be provided at a time when it is most required, during the day when air-cons are running flat out, so in that respect its not a bad idea. (You beat me to the birds and decaying mirrors.)

    I don’t know about the economics of exporting from that particular plant but having diversity in the region probably makes sense so getting the cables in place might be a good long term investment. According to the World Bank energy demand is going to outstrip supply so there is a need for more generation and that probably means they need to be able to import and export to balance generating types with their neighbours.

  6. Bloke in North Dorset

    Just a thought but when a nuclear power station is proposed the externality of waste disposal is always raised by greenies and lefties and they have a point.

    Are the externalities of disposing of all those mirrors and solar panels considered when they come to the end of their useful life?

  7. In the Guardian: “The 4.5GW mega-project planned by TuNur …”

    I know it’s a bit of a stylistic/semantic complaint, but I would have thought the multi-giga-watts would deserve naming as more than a “mega-project”.

    Best regards

  8. From Hamza Hamouchene’s Twitter profile:
    Algerian Writer, Activist and Co-founder of Algeria Solidarity Campaign
    There is also a link, but it turns out to be forbidden.
    I wonder what WoW pays him to parade his radical conscience.

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    No they’re not. And I’ll thank you to keep politically incorrect questions like that to yourself. There is a time and a place for articulating obnoxious questions and opinions… and it’s when you’re Jacob Rees-Mogg.

  10. BiND,

    the mirrors are made from glass and aluminium, the same stuff as the desert sand.

    The Sahara desert is around the size of the continental US and has a population of 2.5 million.

    The area of Manhattan is 23 square miles (similar in size to Guernsey) and has a population of 1.7 million

  11. ” That conundrum of course is additional to the hazard to migrating birds and hunting hawks flying over the site – they’ll get mass broiled, ”
    No. They’ll get mass broiled if they approach the focus of the mirrors. The point of the system is to concentrate insolation from a wide area into a small area so the light flux will rise as the inverse square of the distance from the focus point. “Flying over” the site, it’ll just look like any other stretch of Algeria with some industrial structures on it.

  12. Seriously? What’s the alternate use value of this land?

    It’s a fair sized plot, but as a proportion of available desert I suspect it’s a fly speck. (I am assuming this scheme resembles the one in whatever Bond film came out recently)

    It’s not like any one part of a desert is more picturesque than any other. That’s kind of the definition of a desert, after all.

  13. Simply carpeting a piece of desert with PV panels would be a more sensible first stage as that would meet (probably only in part but largely) Tunisia’s power shortage during peak demand (daytime), followed by second stage with cable to Southern Europe – Italy or Spain – with boiling water only as a third stage when they get beyond peak-lopping and have to think of storage.
    Be that as it may, I think that the local tribe has more right to decide what it wants to do with its patch of desert than Mr Hamouchene. He wants to deny them control in the name of anti-colonialism which he says denies them control – a perfect example of Newspeak!

  14. Its a bit dusty there. Who cleans things?
    Otherwise look at the advantages. With a few grenade launchers you could hold Europe etc o ransom

  15. More to the point, its not exactly very secure supply is it? Tunisia maybe relatively stable, but its entirely surrounded by Algeria and Libya, not noted for their democratic histories. Not really very sensible is it, to export the capacity to power ones economy to another country, across a large sea as well?

  16. Here’s a question: What happens to the mirrors during a sandstorm? Will there be adequate protection to prevent them becoming sandblasted and as much use as frosted glass?

  17. One of the arguments against fossil fuels is the dependence on supply from an unstable region, i.e. the Middle-East. So now we replace that with dependence on a supply from an unstable region, I.e. North Africa. This is progress?

  18. That whole area is crawling with roving gangs of jihadis, freelance murders, cutthroats, bandits, traffickers, smugglers, revolutionaries and morons. I would not personally want to put my electrical eggs in such a vulnerable and hard to defend project. Tough enough to guard the permiter of an actual power station somewhere like that – acres and acres of highly vulnerable, eminently breakable hi-tech shit? The manpower cost to cover that 24/7 in the middle of the fucking Sahara will sting.

  19. Tunisia used to be part of Rome’s bread basket, somewhat destroyed by the Arab invasion which damaged irrigation and allowed soil to blow into the Med. It is in the temperate not tropical zone and the desert part is actually semidesert used by herders. I am rather partial to semidesert where nature responds dramatically and prolifically to rain, even if a lot of you prefer the green of Northern Europe .
    biS please look up the number of streamers ie combusted birds over google’s virtue signalling mirror array.
    BiND: I doubt factories are going to start drawing power midmorning because it takes a while to melt the salt especially not in winter where the sun is also lower and later.

  20. Bob Rocket Aluminium salts are acid and will alter the soil. The kindest form of aluminium is that which hasn’t been extracted ie glass and sand. The metal form will decay to soluble salts not insoluble mineral.

  21. The advantage of a thermal solar plant over PV is that the energy can be stored and then released overnight, so the output is more like a sine wave than a square wave.

  22. If it’s reflecting sunlight off into anywhere where it can be seen then surely it’s throwing that sunlight away. It should visually look dark, everything should be being reflected into the power systems.

  23. @ Rob September 7, 2017 at 9:50 am

    “One of the arguments against fossil fuels is the dependence on supply from an unstable region, i.e. the Middle-East. So now we replace that with dependence on a supply from an unstable region, I.e. North Africa. This is progress?”

    Make that dependence on an unstable supply from an unstable region.

    Very progressive.


  24. Came the sand storm…

    Submarine cables; long distances… transmission losses.

    Meanwhile France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear power and most of the rest from hydro and geothermique.

    France is a net exporter of electricity.

    Why would it want solar generated electricity all the way from Tunisia?

  25. Indeed, transmission losses. I don’t believe electricity from Tunisia to Europe is practical (but I don’t care enough to research).

  26. What I don’t understand is why environmentalists favor paving one of the few ecosystems that humans don’t currently exploit with solar panels.

  27. @ LY
    Because it’s “Green”.
    It reduces fossil fuel consumption and the production of greenhouse gases. Almost a religion with some of them.

    @ Gamecock
    Transmission of electricity from Africa to Europe is practicable, but the economics don’t stack up unless you ban fossil fuels. Transmission losses in high voltage lines are much lower than they used to be, of the order of 1% for every 100 miles.

  28. All without thought to the second order effects. This is really just a subset of the question, why are American(and it appears British) ‘liberals’ so illiberal?

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