100% Solar Power for Egypt is Not Only a SEKEM Vision

On the 8th of April, Prof. Dr. Evert Du Marchie van Voorthuysen, a Dutch expert from the renewable energy sector, gave a lecture at Heliopolis University (HU) on the contribution of solar power in Egypt to solving the climate change problem. Wiekert Visser, a committed SEKEM friend from the Netherlands, attended the lecture and summarizes his impressions for the SEKEM News.

SEKEM is very keen on further increasing its involvement in sustainable energy activities. Together with the Austrian partner SEKEM Energy and Heliopolis University, SEKEM is cooperating with several companies and universities in Europe and Egypt to be involved in the energy transition process. A prominent recent example is the installation of solar driven water pumps on SEKEM’s farm in the Bahareyya oasis that was supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA).

SEKEM Energy and the SEKEM team in front of the new solar water pump in the Bahareyya oasis.

In this context, Prof. Dr. Evert Du Marchie from Groningen, the Netherlands, presented a lecture on solar power potential in Egypt. He is currently cooperating with HU to develop a solar driven fresh water generating system that utilises atmospheric moisture and dew.

Dr. Evert started his lecture by discussing the climate change background, and its link to soaring CO2 emissions by human activity. Based on data from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), he demonstrated that we need to reduce our CO2 emissions to zero over the coming 20 years for a maximum temperature increase of 1.5oC. Alternatively, CO2 emissions can be reduced to zero over the coming 40 years, leading to a maximum temperature increase by 2oC. Dr. Evert reminded the audience that with global temperature increase comes a significant rise in sea level, which will cause all delta’s in the world to be flooded, including the Nile delta in Egypt.

“The oldest CSP system in the world was built in Egypt in 1916, creating power to pump water from the Nile into irrigation channels.”

Reduction of CO2 emission implies doing away with burning of fossil fuels. The best way to replace energy based on fossil fuels is energy based on Solar Power. Within the Solar Power domain there are two main technologies: Photovoltaics (PV) and Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). PV is a cheap, mature technology, which makes electricity directly. However, its efficiency is only 15-20%, and it requires storage of energy in expensive and environmentally unfriendly batteries for the time when the sun is not shining. CSP, which involves focussing the rays of the sun into one spot by using mirrors, is a more advanced technology. It creates heat, from which electricity can be derived. Its efficiency is 15-25%, and the heat can easily be stored and converted into electricity when needed. The oldest CSP system in the world was built in Egypt in 1916, creating power to pump water from the Nile into irrigation channels.

Considering the abundant availability of space and sun in Egypt, it is the ideal place to massively transform its energy industry from fossil fuel burning to solar power. This will be hugely beneficial for the reduction of pollution in Cairo and other major cities in Egypt.

100% solar power for Egypt within the coming 10 years

Dr. Evert reminded the audience of the US president Kennedy who in 1961 challenged the nation to bring the first man to the moon within 10 years. As we know, they did that. It should be a similar challenge to Egypt he said, to convert the country’s energy industry to 100% solar sourced within the coming 10 years, which is in line with the SEKEM 2057 goal on sustainable energy.  However, in order to do so, more insights, experiences and partnerships, like those gained through the above mentioned projects need to be attained and strengthened.

Prof. Dr. Wiekert Visser is a geologist with very extensive experience in the petroleum industry and University level teaching. His last job was Professor in Petroleum Geosciences at the German University of Technology in Oman. As emeritus he is supporting the Heliopolis University since 2017. He is a member of the SEKEM Friends of Association the Netherlands.

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