Algeria moves to solar power

Work has begun on the first of four industrial-scale hybrid gas/solar plants in Algeria. The Algerian government aims to produce 6% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2015.

The Algerian desert is rich in oil

This move will be welcomed by environmentalists around the world as one of the first major moves towards renewable energy by an oil exporting nation. The plant is the first project to combine gas and steam turbines with solar thermal input, and will generate 25 megawatts of power from solar energy alone.

Renewables are currently responsible for just 0.5% of the world’s energy production, with the EU leading the way with an average of 7%. The Chairman of the independent World Council for Renewable Energy, Wolfgang Palz, announced in 2006 that “Until now, all the oil-producing countries under the lead of Saudi Arabia did everything to torpedo renewable energies”. Algeria’s economy is heavily dependent on oil and gas exports, which brought in around $54 billion last year alone.

This is definitely a move in the right direction, and will hopefully encourage other north African oil producing countries to follow Algeria’s lead. However, these plants are reliant on gas as well as solar energy, so are by no means independent of fossil fuels. A project to supply the energy to Europe via an undersea cable by 2012 has not yet confirmed an investor.