In BriefThe company TuNur aims to produce solar energy cheaply in the Sahara desert and distribute it to Europe. However, there are lingering questions about whether the company behind the project can actually pull it off.
Energy company TuNur is seeking approval from the Tunisian government for a 4.5GW solar park situated in the Sahara desert. If it’s given the green light, the project would distribute electricity to Malta, Italy, and France via submarine cables.
It’s expected that TuNur would begin construction of its €5 billion (approximately $6 trillion) plant in 2018, with a target of sending solar power to the European grid via Malta by 2021. The cable to Italy would be implemented in 2022, and the link to France could be up and running by 2024.
“The economics of the project are compelling: the site in the Sahara receives twice as much solar energy compared to sites in central Europe, thus, for the same investment, we can produce twice as much electricity,” said the company’s CEO Kevin Sara in a press release.
However, there are some doubts about the project. Chafik Ben Rouine, a spokesman for the Tunisian Economic Observatory, noted that TuNur’s backer Nur Energie is unproven at this scale, having only completed two small solar projects as stated in comments made to The Guardian.
Meanwhile, Hamza Hamouchene of the War on Want argued that this kind of activity isn’t in the best interests of Tunisians. “Projects like TuNur deny local people control and access to their land, rob them of resources and concentrate the value created in the hands of domestic and foreign predatory elites and private companies,” he said to the publication.