The Sahara Desert can transform Africa into a solar energy superpower. Concentrated solar power (CSP) and photovoltaic power (PV) hold the answers to the energy revolution in the region.

Big picture

Between the lines

  • To better understand how a CSP plant works, check out the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert.
  • Desert solar panels can improve climate conditions in the region.
    • Compared to sand, panels reflect lower amounts of heat to space.
    • The result: surface heating in the desert and cloud formation.
    • Changing the desert’s heat budget may increase precipitation levels. 

Questions to consider

  • What companies would fund the project? 
  • Who would benefit from affordable solar electricity? 
  • How can you export energy to nations inside and outside of Africa?

Why it matters

  • CSP can release energy overnight, creating a 24-hour source of energy.
  • CSP has a high initial set-up cost but has long-term advantages over traditional forms of energy generation such as hydroelectricity.

Bottom line

The developing world has a unique opportunity to learn harsh lessons from 20th century economic development principles. Using natural phenomena like the Sahara Desert or the Congo River, Africa can become the solar energy superpower of the future.

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