Brimming with the kind of energy that infuses a school field trip, roughly 80 professionals from the renewable energy industry packed into two large buses outside the Semiramis International Hotel in Cairo last Friday. This was the 3rd and final day of the Desertec conference that addressed many of the concerns related to funding, legislating, and monitoring the push to harness North Africa’s endless renewable energy sources (experts say solar is the future) and eventually ship part of that energy to Europe. The buses were headed for Kuraymat, Egypt’s very first solar-thermal plant located 90km south of Cairo, and Green Prophet was on the scene. Step in for exclusive photographs of this 150 MW Integrated Solar Combined Cycle (ISCC) power plant, which has been feeding energy into the grid since July, 2011.
Kuraymat operates at night as a combined cycle gas power plant producing roughly 110 MW of natural gas-fueled energy. During the day a 1,900 square meter solar thermal field filled with parabolic trough technology converts energy captured from the sun into steam-powered electricity. The solar field has a capacity of 150 MW during peak hours.
Susan reported earlier this year that “Iberdrola was awarded the $220 million contract to build this hybrid combined cycle plant by the Egyptian government’s New Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) in September 2007 after an international public tendering process, and the company began work on building the plant on uninhabited desert land 95 km south of Cairo, in close proximity to the power grid in 2009.”
Although the NREA relied on international help to lift this project off the ground, including a $50 million grant from the World Bank and a $190 million loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Egyptian contractor that oversees the daily management of the plant predicts that this project will pave the way to a more independent renewable future for the country.
Sherif Sharobeem, the Deputy Manager of Orascom’s Business Development Department told Green Prophet that if the relevant government agencies are willing to do their part, within the next five years, it is possible that Egypt will be able to manufacture their own solar components. As it stands, however, Flagsol GmbH – a subsidiary of Solar Millennium AG – delivered the bulk of the program’s solar technology. However, 100% of the steel used was provided by Egypt’s own National Steel Fabrication Company.
Paul van Son, CEO at Dii GmbH, and Mahmoud Attia Mustafa, Vice Chairman of Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) pose for a quick shot at the Kuraymat Solar-Thermal plant south of Cairo.
Technically the Kuraymat plant is not part of the Desertec program since its initiation preceded the vision to tap into the MENA region’s renewable resources to provide 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050 (the 500MW solar power plant in Morocco slated to begin construction in 2012 is Desertec’s official pilot project.) However, Andreas Wischnat, an Analyst Strategist with Dii pointed out that “Dii is an enabler” that brings together stakeholders. As such, Kuraymat may be one project in a chain that could ultimately contribute to the mutual visions of countries from the Middle East and Europe.
One thing is for certain, if local governments in Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and other Mediterranean countries continue to pursue renewable energy programs with such determination and focus, given the region’s vast resources – (capturing a mere 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and Middle East could power the entirety of Europe, according to the European Institute for Energy’s Amulf Jaeger-Walden, reported by Treehugger) – within the next few decades, we could see a serious shift away from oil-producing countries in the world’s energy politics.