According to Land Art Generator, 496,905 square kilometres are needed to power the world with solar energy. That’s less than the surface area of Spain. And just a piece of the Sahara Desert could power all of Europe and North Africa.  However, despite huge fanfare in 2009 with the launch of the Desertec project, the 100GW project has slowly been losing ground as German member of the consortium have dropped out.

The $550bn project seems like it may have a chance at new life, however, as a 37 ‘revalidated’ members groups is now spearheading the scheme.  Munich-based DII (Desertec Industrial Initiative), aims to shepherd the construction of more than 37GW of wind and solar in 15 MENA countries this.

“We are more about the area itself [than any one major development] now,” says chief executive Paul van Son. “We see that a very large number of projects, after many years of preparation and waiting for this market, are going to happen.”

MENA’s renewables capacity, which has experienced a 30% compound annual growth rate since 2000, is on track to double to more than 8GW by the end of next year. Wind alone is expected to add 20GW by 2020.

“On the political level, five years ago there was little awareness and not much support for renewable energy, to the extent that some MENA countries said: ‘We don’t need it. We have oil and gas’. Only Morocco, Algeria and a few others were systematically making plans for renewables,” van Son stresses.

“Now there is not a single one that does not have renewables in their national energy strategy. There are positive signals everywhere. This is all about to take off.” He points to Morocco, “currently far ahead of the others”; Egypt, where renewables have become “priority number one”; and Saudi Arabia, with its $110bn plan for 50GW of renewables.

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