by Frank Schnittger
Fri Jan 21st, 2022 at 12:32:48 PM EST
There has been much discussion of our electricity deficit and of the need to go nuclear to address the intermittency of wind and solar energy. However, fourth generation nuclear reactors, even if they prove to be safe and viable, won't be with us for many years, so we need to start now on a more immediate solution.
The intermittency of wind and solar can be addressed by building a global Super-grid of ultra-high voltage electricity "pipelines" which can move electricity from areas of surplus - like the Sahara - to areas of deficit, like Europe, and from areas in daytime - for example, the Middle East - when night-time means there is no solar in Europe.
Weather systems are up to a thousand miles wide with a wind "dead zone" up to several hundred miles wide at their centre. Again, the solution is a Super grid which can transmit electricity from areas where wind is blowing to where it is not thus compensating for the "dead zone" as it passes over a highly populated area.
Electricity transmission losses are low at very high voltages, so distance is not a technical problem. The capital costs, on the other hand, are huge and require an integrated response at a European level. But in the 1980's who would have believed the world wide web would connect every corner of the globe only thirty years later?
A similarly visionary approach is needed for a global electricity super-grid. Once off inter-connectors between national electricity systems are proliferating around Europe but are not of a sufficient scale and capacity to adequately address the problem. It's time for the EU to step up and take the lead with a continent-wide integrated approach.