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 April 21, 2010
Desertec dream moves towards reality with Egyptian solar farm

 German solar firm hopes that soon-to-be-completed 150MW Egyptian solar farm will provide working template for Desertec solar project

The ambitious dream of providing much of Europe's energy from solar farms located in the North African desert took a small step towards reality last week, after one of the companies involved in the high-profile Destertec coalition confirmed it is on track to complete Egypt's first solar thermal power plant later this year.

A spokesman for Germany-based solar energy firm Solar Millennium told BusinessGreen.com that the company is hoping the €250m Kuraymat project will act as a template for the solar farms that the Desertec group plans to one day use. These will supply power to much of North Africa and southern Europe.

He added that the company has just installed the last of almost 2,000 mirrored collector units at the 150MW solar farm, which is being built on behalf of the Egyptian New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA).

Final commissioning of the project, which is located around 100km south of Cairo, is now expected to be completed in autumn this year.

The hybrid solar thermal power plant will primarily use concentrated solar power to create steam in order to drive turbines. However, Solar Millennium said that the plant would also feature a natural gas generator to ensure the plant can generate electricity around the clock.

The spokesman said the hybrid design could ultimately be used on a larger scale to support a range of solar thermal farms as part of the Destertec project.

The news will come as a boost to the Destertec coalition, which was launched to much fanfare last year and has already secured backing from a host of European blue-chip firms as it attempts to move forward with the €400bn project.

The group is currently working on a comprehensive feasibility study of its plans, which would see a network of solar thermal plants in North Africa connected to Europe via high voltage direct current cables capable of transmitting energy thousands of miles.

The announcement will also further underline Egypt's position as the fastest emerging renewable energy market in North Africa, particularly given news that government has this week given the green light to plans for a 120MW wind farm in the Gulf of Suez.

Reuters reported yesterday that government officials have authorised Italian cement firm Italcementi to begin work on the wind farm, which will be located to the east of Cairo. The project is expected to be supplying electricity to Egypt's national grid by 2012.