The German government has recently commissioned a plan for a collaborative multinational electricity grid covering Europe, north Africa and some countries in the middle east. The grid would link together a range of large scale renewable energy generation plants of types most suited to the local climate. A simplified map is shown below.
As you can see the vast majority of plants on the north African coast are solar and rather than using low efficiency photo-voltaic panels they are using concentrated solar power. This method uses mirrors to direct sunlight onto fluid filled tubes which heat up and are then used to boil sea water. Many of you may remember that boiling water is often considered a good starting point for generating electricity. Boiling sea water is also a major part of de-salination so these plants would produce clean water as a by-product of generating clean electricity. The system is also able to store heat in rocks to continue production at night.
The grid is intended to use high-voltage direct current transmission and it is anticipated that it could transfer energy across 3000 miles (Morocco to mid-European latitudes) with only 15% loss. at about 4p/KWh delivered.
By adopting concentrated solar power north African countries could produce energy and fresh water, two things that are in ever growing demand in that region. 90% of the world's population lives within 3000 miles of hot desert and to supply the worlds energy needs would require 0.3% of that desert. The map below shows the potential for this method of energy production.
More about the plan can be found here and the executive report can be downloaded as a pdf here.
Ref: The Big Issue no 701