The project, which is being taken forward in a partnership between London-based investors Low Carbon and utility scale solar developer Nur Energie, is currently undergoing permitting in Tunisia and Europe, and is set to reach financial close and start construction in 2016.
It is claimed that when the project comes online by late 2018 it will have the potential to provide power to more than 2.5 million UK homes.
According to Low Carbon, the majority of the project’s feasibility and preliminary licencing has now been completed including an offer of a 2GW grid connection solution (STMG) from Terna, the Italian grid operator, for an interconnection point in Italy. The project is now entering into the next stage of permitting and development, putting it on track to start construction by the end of 2016.
According to the European Commission’s Institute for Energy, 0.3 per cent of the sunlight that shines on the Sahara and Middle Eastern deserts could supply all of Europe’s energy needs.
In a statement, Roy Bedlow, CEO of Low Carbon said: ‘With the right level of investment, large scale renewable projects such as TuNur can be very competitive in the energy market and demonstrates that renewables make business sense.
‘By harnessing the power of the sun, we can challenge other means of energy generation such as nuclear power or burning fossil fuels, which have multiple, long-term negative effects. Large scale solar projects, in Europe and Africa are a vital part of diversifying and securing Europe’s energy supply, while creating a low carbon economy.’
Kevin Sara, chief executive officer of Nur Energie said: ‘Recent news around Desertec (Dii) has raised some questions about the concept of North African solar. CSP is a proven technology and the Sahara is an area of optimum solar resource, as demonstrated by our three-year study showing direct normal irradiance (DNI) of 2,500kWh/m2/Yr.
‘Successful government programmes such as MASEN in Morocco prove that developing solar in the Sahara is a cost effective source of renewable energy today. This coupled with the growing energy demand and need for low carbon and non-intermittent power in Europe makes North Africa an optimum region for large scale solar development. Governments, investors and developers – including many of those involved in Dii – remain enthusiastic about the validity of this solution.’
Low Carbon said it recently increased its stake in Nur Energie to become one of the company’s largest shareholders.