For last many years there has been talks and attempts of tapping the sunshine of Sahara desert to be effectively used to power Europe but little had happened so far. The Very high profile Desertec project, funded by 19 shareholders and a budget of approximately €400 billion, flopped due to cost concerns and politically unstable North Africa.
But now a massive project in Tunisia is coming up and will be the first to export solar power, a dream likely to come to reality. TuNur is a solar export project from Tunisia to Europe. The developer of the project has filed a permit request recently to the energy ministry of Tunisia, to build and operate 4.5GW (9,000GWh per annum) solar power plant near Rjim Maatoug, in the southwest of the country. The power plant will be spread over 10,000 hectares in Southern Tunisia, which will consist of circa 18 x 125MW CSP Towers with molten salt storage. The electricity generated at this power plant will be transmitted to Europe, with cables laid under the sea to Malta, Italy and France.
As per TuNur chief executive Kevin Sara, the first stage consists of a 250MW CSP Tower plant which will have molten salt storage at Rjim Maatoug. A dedicated 250MW HVDC transmission line (approximately 400km long) will be laid from the site going across Tunisia and then through the Mediterranean Sea to Malta approximately 400km long. Once the electricity reaches Malta, it will be then transmitted to the off-takers in the mainland Europe through the Malta-Sicily interconnector. The estimated cost of the first stage is $1.6 billion.
The second stage consists of 2,250MW CSP Tower plant which will also have molten salt storage like the first stage at the same site. It will have a dedicated 2,000MW HVDC transmission line (approximately 450km long) running through the Strait of Sicily, East of Sardinia and then through the Tyrrhenian Sea, landing in North of Rome, Italy. Once reached in Italy 9,000GWh per annum of power will be transported to the customers across Europe.