The DESERTEC Project Analysis

Introduction

The DESERTEC project is a huge and long term project that will impact the environment and population of the countries of Europe and around the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa). It is an ambitious one for the so-called sun-belt countries that will involve construction of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants to make use of solar energy which is an environmentally friendly use of energy. The problem of climate change and global warming due to our overuse of fossil fuel and coal gas emission will be minimized.

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According to feasibility studies and assessment of well known experts, scholars and scientists, it is a viable project that will answer the energy and water needs of the population by the year 2050, more specifically it can serve the purpose of saving the earth from destruction of its ozone layer. World population is expected to increase by about 10 billion by that time, and if electricity and water demands are not programmed by now, there will surely be insurmountable problems for the people and the deterioration of the environment will exacerbate.

The DESERTEC website says that a few hours the earth receives power from the sun is equivalent to a year it can use for its requirements to run factories, industries, businesses, homes, and offices. The deserts of Africa and Arabia can absorb much heat from the sun using mirrors to heat water to produce steam and convert this into energy. With this technology, solar energy is convertible into High Voltage DC current; the technology uses AC current converted into Direct Current using gargantuan transformers and components that store electric currents like capacitors.

Anders Wijkman, Vice President of the Club of Rome, says that from the data gathered from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, much has been utilized from our important ecosystems such as the forests, fisheries, wetland, freshwater resources, and that we have to move fast and change our course of actions to save the environment and the planet as a whole. The world’s program of action has not improved these past decades because we still depend on fossil fuel; specifically, eighty percent of energy comes from fossil fuels (11).

On the other hand, fossil fuels and coal, which are harmful to the environment, can be depleted. There will come a time that we’ll lack resources for these forms of energy sources. In other words, there must be a way to produce a substitute for fossil fuels and coal, something that is not harmful to the ozone layers and the environment as a whole. Solar energy and other forms of environmentally friendly energy using the wind, tidal waves, hydro, and other similar forms, must be tapped.

The TREC (Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation) has been continuing its studies which aim to multiply for several times the generation of electricity and desalinated water by solar thermal power plants and then transmitting the power generated through HVDC transmission lines throughout the Mediterranean region. Power from deserts can be the key to sustainable energy use that can last up to 2050 and beyond, and the earth is ensured of a long life too. It utilizes the tremendous power of the deserts which absorb a vast amount of solar energy. The concept has been acclaimed by scientists and environmental groups, particularly Greenpeace International.

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The DESERTEC project will tap solar power from the deserts and transform this into high voltage DC current, and carry them out to the developing countries in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and all the other countries who are interested in clean energy.

If plans materialize, the project could be completed within two decades, just in time to what the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore said that the polar ice cap would be gone within 22 years or even earlier. At present, we can see news of droughts in some places, melting glaciers, and other natural catastrophes.

Ever since man has ventured into agriculture, he has used deforestation and destruction of the environment for personal needs, impacting climatic and ecological conditions. These irresponsible activities diminish the natural recycling of carbon dioxide gases, and in the process, it accelerates and increases the inversion layer that traps the reflected energy of the sun, the so-called ozone layer. The augmented inversion layer has an elevated atmospheric temperature, giving rise to global warming which has caused melting of the polar ice substantial changes to climatic conditions, and depletion of the ozone layer.

The unchecked effects of global warming will not only change the makeup of the global landmass but will affect man’s lifestyle on the planet. It will hasten the rise of seawater levels and cover some habitable coastlines.

In view of the rapid expansion of the world’s economies, demand for fossil fuel and construction materials will become severe. Added to this is the demand for water. And the excessive demand for fossil fuel energy resources will also result in the demise of the ecology of our planet; the effects might be long-lasting and cannot be reversed. Scientists say that this is of immediate concern. The deterioration of our planet’s ecosystem and atmosphere cannot be ignored; if we have to act, the right time is now. Our planet’s ozone layer has been depleted by severe coal gas emissions. Worse is the reality that greenhouse gases have altered meteorological conditions.

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With the increase in consumption in energy and water in the years ahead, surely we have a big problem in our supplies of basic necessities of which only nature can provide. Agriculture will be adversely affected by lower water supplies, and there will be extreme heat and drought. An increase in the summer heat and dryness is likely to result in forest fires. Europe and the countries in the MENA region need an immediate response to this emergency because of its great demand for energy. Moreover, the world’s population will double by 2050.

The MED-CSP (for Concentrating Solar Power in the Mediterranean Region) study concluded that renewable energy is a must for the economic growth of the region and that the present supply of energy is insufficient. Moreover, renewable energy is not scarce in the region and can supply the countries for a longer period of time, or up to the specified date 2050, which is crucial in world population (MED CSP 2).

Additionally, seawater desalination technology is also available at the moment; this can be operational with the use of solar power, and therefore drinking water during the crucial time will be available.

As a consequence of all these activities, a new industry or a new economy will come out in the region. The Middle East and North Africa can become export-oriented in terms of solar energy, more jobs for their people, and the economy will be boosted to the maximum.

Project Planning

The construction of a solar and wind power complex to answer the energy needs of the people in Europe and the MENA region is an ambitious project that will require a lot of resources, expertise of scientists, engineers and professionals, finances, and labor.

These countries have renewable energy potential; a solar plant in the desert can provide energy requirements for the developed countries in the region.

What is remarkable in this undertaking is that Europe has vast technologies at its disposal, not to mention the scientists and experts in the field, while the MENA region has the potential for a vast amount of solar energy. MENA can export the product of solar energy; it also has vast labor potentials. Capital can be sourced from stakeholders around the world who are interested in solar energy. At present, the DESERTEC management and secretariat are in the process of acquiring this capital for a “systems go” scenario.

Time Management

In deciding and pursuing this project, there are several techniques we used in implementing effective time management, such as the ones recommended by Harold Herzner: delegation, following the schedule, deciding fast and deciding who should attend, learning to say no, and starting right at the moment, doing the tough part first, traveling tight, working at travel stops, and there are many of them (Kerzner 290).

These techniques or tips are very useful for the project manager, and it can be summarized in a few words: work diligently and make sure that you finish it, and that you finish it on time.

A good project manager should ask the following questions:

  • What am I doing that I don’t have to do at all?
  • What am I doing that can be done better by someone else?
  • What am I doing that could be done as well by someone else?
  • Am I establishing the right priorities for my activities? (Kerzner 290)

There are a lot of stressful factors for the manager in the course of the operations and these are part of the responsibilities, for example, the necessity for perfection, the pressure of deadlines, role ambiguity, role conflict, role overload, the crossing organizational boundaries, responsibility for the actions of subordinates, and many others.

Project managers have these great responsibilities in the running of big and well-funded projects. If the project manager succeeds, he is merely doing his job. He may get a congratulatory remark, but if failure comes along the way, he is responsible for that unsuccessful project which costs a lot for the company or organization.

Milestones

The milestones listed for this project include July 15. This date marked the contract negotiations of the parties involved in the DESERTEC project. The head and secretariat of the organization prepared a Memorandum involving other organizations for a meet before July 15. Then on July 18, no further questions and problems arose for they were all one in the pursuit of the goal of acquiring solar energy at the soonest possible time.

August 14 was a call for “all systems go” when all the schedules for plans, projects, activities were submitted to the top echelon of the organization. Having studied all the details, and all possible problems that might occur in the course of the operations, the management and all stakeholders agreed, and the final design of the project was submitted on August 15 for approval.

August 16 was the procurement of supplies and materials, and it became a continuous process of procurement, purchases of all supplies. Suppliers came from different countries. But the whole process is coordinated efforts of different countries represented by various experts in engineering and solar technology.

The manufacture of DC High Voltage is July 15, 2010, the start of a new year where we can say that project is really doable. The finished project is July 1, 2011.

List of Activities

Project list for a solar power plant Duration Milestones Comments
Feasibility Studies 7 days July 1
Contract negotiated 3 days July 15
Contract signed 2 days July 18
Energy demand survey 2 days
Water demand survey 2 days
Survey of population 2 days
Consultations with the population 2 days
Demand for clean energy 2 days
Assessment of demands 2 days
Assessment of demand to population 3 days
Checking available resources 1 day
Site inspection 2 days July 30
Analysis of situations 3 days July 31
Check availability of personnel/laborers 3 days August 2
Environmental impact investigation 30 days August 3
Environmental care and concern 30 days Continuous
Symposium on environmental concern 2 days August 4
Inviting all environmental groups 2 days August 4
Impact on the economy continuous
Survey of personnel 3 days Aug. 5
Perimeter security analysis 30 days Aug. 7 Police, armed forces
Consultations with local police/armed forces 7 days Aug. 8 – 15 continuous
Procurement of supplies and materials 30 days Aug. 16
Procurement of instruments and equipts. 30 days Aug. 17
Long/short lead procurement 30 days Aug. 20
Component production 90 days Aug. 21
Assessment of finances and resources 7 days Aug. 26
Warehousing 60 days Sept. 1
Budget allocation 30 days Aug. 15
Investors and Stakeholders 30 days Sept. 3
Companies/businesses involved 30 days
Finance groups/organizations 30 days Sept. 5
Investment Portfolio 30 days
Overall Finance Group in charge 30 days
Board of Directors Continuous
Conference of Management/key personnel 2 days Sept. 10
Recruitment/Organization 30 days
Formulation of strategies 5 days
Strategic management Continuous
Agreement of proposed solution 3 days August 14
Plans finalized 3 days
Final design 5 days August 15
Construction/installation of building, bunkers, offices, etc. 180 days August 17 As needed…
Communication infrastructure 60 days
Real and virtual highways for entire project 300 days Aug. 15
Planning and development of CSP power plants 30 days Sept. 1
Construction of CSP Power Plants 180 days Sept. 10
Installation of other CSP structures/supports 60 days
Manufacturing Solar Power 180 days Dec. 1 After completion
Monitoring, maintenance, R&D continuous
Development of DC High Voltage Power Plants 60 days Dec. 5
Construction of DC High Voltage Power Plants 180 days Dec. 10
Installation of DC High Voltage structures 60 days Jan 10, 2010
Manufacturing DC High Voltage 180 days Jan. 15, 2010
Monitoring/maintenance R&D Continuous
Construction of Power Lines 60 days Feb. 11, 2010
Grid Distribution 180 days March 15, 2010
Construction of high voltage power lines to different countries 90 days April 5, 2010
Interconnection of the power lines 30 days May. 2, 2010
Interconnecting AC to High Voltage DC Current 90 days July 30, 2010
Country to country interconnections 90 days August 1, 2010
Monitoring/maintenance, R&D Continuous
Connecting to developed countries 30 days Aug. 15, 2010
Country to country interconnect 90 days Aug. 30, 2010
Middle East countries interconnection to HV DC loads 30 days Sept. 15, 2010
Monitoring/maintenance, R&D Continuous
Construction/installation of power lines 30 days Oct. 15, 2010
European countries interconnection to HV DC loads 30 days Nov. 15, 2010
Construction/installation of power lines 30 days Dec. 15
Monitoring/maintenance/R&D continuous
North African Countries interconnection to HV DC loads 30 days Jan. 15, 2011
Construction/installation of power lines 30 days Feb. 15, 2011
Monitoring/maintenance/R&D Continuous
Talks for aids/grants to developing countries 30 days March 1, 2011
International groups helping developing countries 30 days
Developing countries import clean energy 30 days
Developing countries interconnect to HV DC loads 30 days April 5, 2011
Development of sea water desalination plants 90 days May 30, 2011
Construction of sea water desalination plants 90 days
Exporting water to developing countries 90 days
Connecting pipelines 90 days
Massive information 30 days
Media involvement 30 days
IT/internet 30 days
Education, training, seminars 30 days
Public awareness 60 days
Reaching out to countries 60 days
Finish July 1, 2011

Project network analysis

The reference for this paper on network scheduling techniques was sourced from the book by Harold Kerzner who showed the many advantages in network scheduling techniques, which are:

  • They are the basis for planning and predicting the outcomes of the activities and also help management decide the appropriate methods of using available resources.
  • They provide a guide for management to see what’s going on in the operations.
  • They can be used in the evaluation of the men and resources as the operation of the project is going on.
  • It can be used as a time network and to determine the availability of manpower and materials.
  • They also provide information for reporting schedules.
  • The activities are clearly stated.

The project network of Concentrating Solar Power involving countries of the EUMENA conglomeration is a complicated network. There are interlocking duties or responsibilities among the activities, and some are interdependent; meaning, the completion of one project could be simultaneous, or that some activities can be undertaken at the same time. The scheduling has to be done meticulously because, in actual or realistic projects, the scheduling has to be almost accurate in the planning so that resources and manpower will not be wasted.

From the many activities in the project, we have included a portion for the developing countries. They are not to be forgotten because if the advanced countries and the scientific community really wish to solve the grave danger of excessive coal gas emissions and the overuse of fossil fuels, the developing countries should be given the chance to solve the world’s environmental problem along with the developed countries.

Conclusion

The DESERTEC concept and other similar studies, such as the TREC (Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation), and the many other studies conducted by the German government and other governments of Europe, are worthy of praise but are also indeed doable. They are not just ideas or concepts that will remain in the air, they can be done. Their aims are for sustainable energy provision for the populations of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and for other countries that are interested in clean energy.

In scheduling the activities for this project, much attention was focused on the huge tasks that could be assigned to groups and countries. If indeed, this has to push through, more efforts will have to be committed on the planning stage where teams of experts and skilled personnel will be employed.

Works Cited

  1. DESERTEC-EUMENA CONCEPT. DESERTEC Foundation. Clean Power From Deserts: The DESERTEC for Energy, Water and Climate Security.
  2. Kerzner, Harold. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. Canada: John Wiley and Sons, 2009.
  3. MED CSP. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. Concentrating Solar Power for the Mediterranean Region. 2009.
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