I'm not a expert on the matter either.
However, there is a substantial loss of energy during transmission of electricity no matter what the source. That loss increases dramatically over distance. That's one reason power generation plants are built fairly close together. I can think of 5 within 40 minutes of my home if I count the small nuclear reactor at the University of Missouri in Columbia used since the 1950's for research and as a source of electrical power for the school.
A world powered solely by solar cells would require, by necessity, that power stations on the sunlit side of the earth would transmit power over vast distances to the dark side of the earth since that is when the majority of power is most needed. Given that, the Northern Sahara scenario falls apart. And even if superconductors were available (which they're not) the Sahara spends a substantial portion of its day on the dark side of the planet. At best, it would require solar power stations to be located strategically in sunlit hot-spots circumnavigating the globe. Queen Victoria would make a great logo over the company's motto, "The sun never sets on Global Power."
In my opinion, the graphic is meant to be illustrative rather than a serious technical proposal. There's more Walter Mitty in it than Nicola Tesla.
I hope there's some scientist out there who can answer that. If somewhere like Algeria had such solar farms, think of the influence they would have over us - just as much as the oil-producing countries have had.
I'm confused and I'm way removed from being an expert on these matters. What I was wondering is this...if the national grid ( UK or US ) can carry electricity without significant losses from coal or oil fired power stations why could it not from these solar farms in the Sahara? Or is it a question of losses over a global grid? I don't understand where superconductor technology ( or the lack of it ) comes into play.
As usual, big business will get in the way, as it has with wind farms. We have tides going back and forth (and sideways) which could generate a lot of power but I suppose there's less money in grants and so on for that.
Plants use photosynthesis to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H20) into sugar.
In every sense of the term fossil fuels are solar energy. The same is true for wind turbine energy. Sol heats up the parts of the atmosphere to which it is exposed and cooler air rushes towards the warmer.
Gravity is an inexhaustible source of hydroelectric energy whether from damming streams or capturing tidal forces at sea. But, ironically, faces stiff, entrenched opposition from environmental groups. Our newest hydroelectric dam was basically shut down by outside environmental groups in league with the recreational industry. Ostensibly, they wanted to save the "snail darter" but, oddly enough, show little concern for eagles being killed at wind farms. The recreational industry wanted dockside access to a "nonfluctuating' water surface level.
If we are ever to grow beyond a Type 1 civilization we will need to tap into new sources of energy. Nuclear fission is the easiest but its treacherous pitfalls are already known. Fusion? Maybe, but right now successful containment would probably require as much energy (or more) than would be produced. The same goes for superconductors.
Thanks for the response, Harold. I don't know the science of it (apart from the storage problem) but if there's any truth in the above, why are we doing something about it? Also, is anyone studying how plants store energy in a way that might help us?
But I seriously doubt it's true even if superconductor materials for transmission were available which they're not. Moreover, electricity cannot be stored. Batteries produce electricity using chemical reactions. That chemical process is simply reversed while "recharging" then once again the chemical reaction between internal, toxic elements takes over and produces new "electricity." It was not "stored" in the same sense as water is stored in a reservoir. And without superconductors, much of that is lost during transmission.
Plants are far more efficient than man-made solar cells at capturing and storing solar energy. They work day and night, in season and out. They produce and store energy in a form that can last hundreds of thousands of millennia.