Are you ready for a blast of desert sunshine? Whitehall officials discuss a £18bn plan to harness solar and wind power in the African Sahara that could cut British homeowners bills
- Spectacular plans to install nearly 12 million solar panels and 530 wind turbines
- The generated power can be transported across the vast desert of Morocco to the United Kingdom
- It will be transported to Britain via the world’s longest undersea electric cable
- The site gets 3,500 hours of sunshine a year compared to 1,500 hours in the UK
- A study by Octopus Energy shows that there will be significant bill cuts
A £18 billion plan to harness solar and wind energy in the desert and use it to supply Britain with electricity could drastically cut home bills, it was claimed last night.
Whitehall officials are considering an extraordinary plan to install nearly 12 million solar panels and 530 wind turbines across a vast expanse of desert in Morocco and then transfer the power they generate to the UK via the world’s longest undersea electric cable.
The Xlinks project, headed by former Tesco chief Sir Dave Lewis, claims it could supply more than seven million homes by 2030, providing 8 per cent of Britain’s energy needs.
A study by energy company Octopus, which has invested in the scheme, showed that the project would significantly reduce home bills. It is believed that the project will provide electricity at about half the rate produced by nuclear power plants.
Xlinks has been given permission to build a massive solar panel and an adjacent wind farm across an area of 370 square miles of terrain in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region of Morocco.
The chart above shows how the desert sun and wind will reach Britain through the world’s longest underwater power cable
Whitehall officials are considering an extraordinary plan to install nearly 12 million solar panels and 530 wind turbines across a vast expanse of desert in Morocco. (file image)
The site sees 3,500 hours of sunshine per year, compared to 1,500 hours per year in Britain.
The trade winds refresh in the afternoon and evening, allowing for a near-permanent supply of energy production.
Four undersea cables will transmit energy stored in a massive battery plant, 2,360 miles from Morocco after Portugal, Spain and France before hitting shore in the North Devon village of Alverdescott where it will be fed into Britain’s power grid.
Three shipyards are bidding to build a 659-foot vessel – the largest of its kind – to lay the cable.
Meanwhile, planning permission has been granted for a massive plant in Hunterston, Scotland, which will build the cable. The new factory will employ 900 workers. A second cable-building plant could be built in Teesside.
The site in Morocco sees 3,500 hours of sunshine per year, compared to 1,500 hours per year in Britain. Pictured: Legzira Beach in Morocco)
Xlinks will not require taxpayer money to build a solar and wind farm, but is asking the government for a deal in which public subsidies are used to guarantee a so-called “strike price” – a fixed price – for electricity of £48 per megawatt-hour. In contrast, the strike price for power supplied by the Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Plant is £92.50. A megawatt-hour is roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity used by 330 homes in a 60-minute period.
Ministers are understood to be interested in the scheme due to its ability to provide power for 20 hours a day – including, crucially, when the UK isn’t blowing winds. They will now ask supporters of the scheme to show that significant amounts of energy will not be lost in transit to the UK. Simon Morris, CEO of Xlinks, said: “It’s an absolutely ideal location to place solar panels.
“And the wind resource is as good as our offshore wind turbines but is more consistent because it has daily thermal currents that pick up every afternoon, blow in the evening and night and drop again in the morning.”
A government source said: “If you can guarantee renewable energy for 20 hours a day, it will be almost like nuclear power. You turn it on and you get electricity.