A 20 company consortium have announced plans for a pioneering USD 550 billion project to build solar farms in the Sahara desert that will help power European households. The hugely ambitious plan is the most expensive green-energy project ever proposed and would extend out to 2050, when the group envisions solar plants stretching across 130sq/km of the North African desert. According to its backers, the project, known as Desertec, could yield up to 15% of all of Europe’s power needs by 2050. Desertec was formed by the Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation, which itself is made up of Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan. Siemens is expected to provide the project with steam turbines for solar thermal plants, similar to those supplied to the Invapah Solar Complex in Mojave, California. The power generated in the Desertec Sahara project will be transported through a Euro-Mediterranean high-voltage transmission grid with low transmission losses. About USD 481 billion of the proposed funding will go toward building the solar plants, while USD 69 billion will be used for the transmission lines. The group believes that the technology they will use is already available, although they expect ongoing improvements to allow them to scale things up considerably. Professor Hans Muller-Steinhagen from the German Aerospace Center says the project will aim to reduce electricity-acquisition costs by pursuing two parallel approaches as laid out in the EcoStar study. Mass production and experience will lower the costs substantially while the group intends to work to make parabolic trough power plants and solar tower power plants more efficient.