Solar power coming to Egypt: Minister

Solar power coming to Egypt: Minister

Egypt’s Electricity and Energy Minister Hassan Younes said on Tuesday that the country it looking to expand solar power production for possible export. He added that in order for this to be a reality, costs of the technology would need to drop considerably in order to make it cost-effective.

The Egyptian government has repeatedly said it is looking to develop renewable energy resources and hopes to achieve 20 percent of its energy needs by 2020. Wind has been leading this charge – already installed is a wind farm with a capacity of 430 megawatts and the government plans to add 120 megawatts by mid-next year – but solar energy, in a land with over 300 days of sun, has been on the top of many lists, including the ministry’s.

Energy and water issues continue to hit Egypt hard. According to the ministry and independent analysts, water consumption will exceed available sources by 2015 and energy experts worry that without renewable energy sources, the country could become engulfed in an energy crisis rarely seen across the world.

According to recent government statistics, they believe wind power can account for some 12 percent of Egypt’s power needs by 2020. Solar power, they say, needs to pick up.

“Solar energy is four times as expensive as energy generated from combined cycles so when this figure starts going down to three or two times as much, this is when we will see developing countries go heavily into the business,” Younes told Reuters.

“Exports are in our plan, but taking into consideration the development of suitable technology and its spread so that the price goes down,” he added.

Egypt, whose population is concentrated on just 10 percent of its land, has ample desert areas to set up solar power units. The most populous Arab country is also situated in the sun belt where sunshine is available all year round for power generation.

Younes said at a conference on renewable energy that Egypt could export more energy to Europe through Libya and Tunisia.

Egypt hopes to install a solar power capacity of 140 megawatts from its project south of Cairo at Koraymat for domestic consumption by the end of 2010, Younes said.

However, in Cairo’s poorer Darb al-Ahmar and Manshiyet Nasr, solar power has been part of daily life for the past few years after American TH Culhane began developing solar energy and biogas projects in the area.

He told Bikya Masr that solar energy is difficult because a certain amount of sun must hit the roofs of homes on a daily basis in order for it to work, but “this should not discourage people from trying.

“But if the government takes advantage of the desert this could really work and supply a lot of energy needs to the country,” he said.


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