Low Carbon brings Nur Energie closer to CSP export

A 2 GW CSP project with storage will see power being sold from the Tunisian Sahara to Europe, where the UK, Switzerland and Germany are expected to be the biggest buyers.

TuNur, a 2 GW CSP plant with storage in the Tunisian Sahara (pictured above), will be connected to the European grid via a dedicated cable to Italy, and is expected to start exporting in 2018.


By Alison Ebbage

Low Carbon, a private investment company that invests into renewable energy developers and projects, recently increased its stake in Nur Energie; a move that will help speed up a plan to export clean energy to Europe by 2018.

By raising its stake in Nur Energie, Low Carbon became one of the company’s largest shareholders. Its backing will also ensure that Nur Energie’s unique CSP plant, which will deliver solar power from the Sahara Desert to homes in Europe, is a success.

Nur Energie focuses on developing utility-scale solar power plants, primarily in the Mediterranean region, which can provide low-carbon power for both national and international grids.

The company’s flagship project TuNur, a 2 GW CSP project with storage in the Tunisian Sahara, will be connected to the European grid via a dedicated cable to Italy. It is expected to start exporting in 2018.

“The TuNur project is a fully integrated 2GW plant with between 15 and 18 CSP modules, including thermal storage and a dedicated transmission line,” Daniel Rich, COO at Nur Energie, told CSP Today.

“The power produced will be sent to Northern Italy via a dedicated transmission line, that will be some 1200k long (600KM on land and 600KM subsea), and from there it can be sent on to other European countries. This project is part of the company’s overall portfolio that includes projects in France, Italy and a 50MW plant in Crete.”

Export to Europe

Once the power is landed in Europe, it will provide clean power to nearly 2.5 million UK and European homes. This could position Nur Energie as a key power generator in the UK and European energy markets.

Rich elaborates: “We will be selling our power into Europe where there are creditworthy purchasers who are willing and able to pay a premium for green energy that can be added to their existing portfolios”.

“In particular, we expect the UK to be a big recipient market because it has established the contracts for difference (CfD) scheme that we can fit into quite easily. In the future we expect that Switzerland and Germany will both show interest too given the characteristics and price of the power.”

Spare Capacity

The 2GW HVDC cable is expected to have 40% capacity available to other power exporters and Rich thinks that there will be no shortage of interest due to projects coming online in Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia and elsewhere.
“They can build connecting grids to link up and export power to Europe,” he says.

A consequence of significant energy exports to Europe might be that African power producers could need to benchmark their wholesale prices to their European equivalents. However this process of cross-market price comparison could help to drive down costs and wholesale prices.

Local content

The Tunisia project is very large and part of its appeal is the potential benefit to the local economy. Including the export cable to Italy, it will cost 10 billion euros (US$13.8 bn) and this could mean a significant boost to the Tunisian economy both in the short and long term because of the civil and mechanical engineering expertise plus manufacture of mirrors steelwork, glass and cabling that exists.

Rich explains: “Solar resource in Tunisia is vast and there is abundant land availability. We expect local content to be around the 60% mark. In Tunisia and within the local region there is an established industry infrastructure with the expertise to be able to contribute significantly”.

“This is a large project and it is very much in everyone’s interest to use as much local content as possible. In addition, because CSP is a global industry having existing and proven capability opens up an export market which again adds to the local economy.”

Sub-Saharan Africa

Expanding the company’s interests elsewhere in the region, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, is expected to be rewarding. Countries like Niger and Chad, for example, that currently depend on imported oil based energy sources would be good potential markets.

In addition, countries like Ethiopia, which has invested in its grid and its renewables capacity could be of interest. It has thus far focused on hydropower but has the right climatic conditions to make CSP a success.

“In the longer term, there is also the opportunity to look at sub-Saharan Africa. But because the grid networks are not so well developed there the opportunity lies in small-scale operations that are close to the centres of demand,” says Rich.

“Small projects in these countries are also much easier to attract investment.”

So far, through its investments, Low Carbon has funded, is building and operating sustainable initiatives with a renewable energy capacity of more than 350MW. The company invests in both developers and projects.

Roy Bedlow, CEO of Low Carbon says: ““By engaging with Nur Energie, we can both increase our global reach to encompass crucial developments in the Mediterranean region, while supporting a tried and tested technology that will generate utility scale renewable energy to be deployed in the UK and Europe.”

Image courtesy of Nur Energie

To comment on this article, please write to the author, Alison Ebbage.