TOKYO, (Reuters) – Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co plans to build a solar power plant in Tunisia, joining a global race to develop clean energy in the deserts of North Africa, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Mitsui Engineering aims to build a tower-type concentrated solar power plant (CSP) with capacity of 5 megawatts in El Borma in southern Tunisia after conducting a feasibility study next year under a joint project of the Japanese and Tunisian governments, said the sources, who requested anonymity because the move is not yet public.
Mitsui Engineering and the governments will announce the move during the Japan-Tunisia economic forum scheduled for Dec. 11-12 in Tunis.
The El Borma plant will be combined with a 39 MW gas-turbine combined cycle.
The project, led by Japan’s trade ministry, is aimed at helping Japanese companies gain know-how in CSPs, seen as a key next-generation technology to turn the plentiful desert sunlight into electricity.
CSPs employ mirrors to reflect the sun’s rays, producing steam and driving turbines that generate electricity. Mitsui uses reflective towers to concentrate the sunlight.
France’s Total, Spain’s Abengoa and the United Arab Emirates’ Masdar plan to build a $600 million CSP in the UAE with capacity of 100 MW, which will be the world’s largest such plant.
The European Union is backing projects to turn the sunlight in the Sahara desert into electricity for power-hungry Europe, a scheme it hopes will help meet its target of deriving 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources in 2020.
The EU is backing the construction of new electricity cables, known as inter-connectors, under the Mediterranean Sea to carry this renewable energy from North Africa to Europe