A Green Energy Dream Grows in the Sahara

Japanese academics plan an energy utopia in the Sahara, complete with superconductors and home-brewed silicon photovoltaics

4 min read
A Green Energy Dream Grows in the Sahara

4 October 2011—"People say it’s a Don Quixote project," says Hideomi Koinuma. He grins. He chuckles. "That means they think it’s a crazy project." He completely cracks up. Being compared to an eccentric knight who embarks on grand but impossible quests apparently doesn’t bother him in the slightest.

Koinuma, a professor at the University of Tokyo, is the dreamer behind the Sahara Solar Breeder Project, a proposal that he says could supply a major portion of the world’s energy. The idea: Perfect a process that turns the Sahara’s sand into high-purity silicon suitable for making solar panels, build factories in Algeria to churn out those photovoltaic panels, and establish solar power stations throughout empty desert land. Then send the abundant clean electricity produced across vast distances—around Africa, Europe, and the Middle East—via high-temperature superconducting transmission lines.

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Greg Mably

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