Plans are underway to harness solar energy from the Egyptian desert to power homes in the UK, strengthening energy security in a net-zero world. The proposal involves installing a sub-sea cable across the Mediterranean Sea, connecting Egypt and Europe, to export electricity from North African solar farms and wind turbines to Britain and Europe.
This initiative aims to address energy shortfalls in the UK caused by low wind or poor sunlight, reducing output from North Sea wind farms and onshore solar facilities. The project details will be presented at an upcoming energy summit in London.
Carlos Diaz, director of renewables and energy at Rystad, the organizing energy analyst, emphasized North Africa’s increasing significance as a source of electricity for Europe. The demand for low-carbon electricity in Europe is expected to rise substantially over the next three years, necessitating alternative energy sources.
The project involves a series of massive solar farms in the Egyptian deserts and wind farms near the Suez Canal, an area known for its consistent strong winds. These installations are projected to generate approximately 10 gigawatts of electricity, equivalent to about 10 UK power stations. The energy will be transmitted through a 600-mile sub-sea cable under the Mediterranean Sea, terminating in Attica, Greece.
Approximately one-third of the electricity generated will be consumed in Greece, with the remainder exported to the rest of Europe. Europe’s well-established grid network will facilitate the distribution of electricity to northern Europe and the UK.
The £3.7 billion project is a collaboration between Greek company Kopelozos Group and Infinity, an Egyptian business specializing in desert solar farms. It runs parallel to another plan to lay four cables directly between Morocco and the UK, spanning about 2,400 miles. This second project, developed by Xilinx, will transport solar power from the Maghreb to a terminal on the south coast of Devon.
Interconnectors, like these sub-sea cables, already link the UK power grid to neighboring countries such as France, Belgium, Norway, and the Netherlands, with additional links under construction. They play a vital role in maintaining the UK’s energy supply, particularly as the country shifts towards intermittent renewable energy sources.
Between January and June of this year, the UK imported nearly £2 billion of electricity through interconnectors, compared to £322 million in exports. These connections help compensate for the lack of long-term investment in domestic energy generation, including nuclear power.
A spokesperson for the National Grid highlighted the importance of interconnectors in ensuring a secure and reliable energy transition, allowing energy to be transported from generation sources to areas of high demand, particularly in an energy landscape increasingly reliant on intermittent renewables.