Submitted to the International Conference

Dialogue of Cultures -

on the Future of the Relations between Muslim and Western Societies

22./23. April 1999, Berlin



The Potential of a

European - North African Solar Energy Symbiosis

for Global Climate Stabilisation

and for a Sustainable and Peaceful Development

of the Muslim and Western World.



Abdelaziz Bennouna* und Gerhard Knies**


*Centre Nationale de Coordination et de Planification de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique; Rabat - Morocco.

fax: 00212-777-1288,e-mail:

** Hamburger Klimaschutz-Fonds(HKF)e.V., Stauffenbergstr.15, D-22587 Hamburg,

fax 0049-40-8663001, e-mail:

and Energy Group of the German Physical Society ( Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG) e.V.), Physikzentrum, Hauptstr.5, D-53604 Bad Honnef - Germany







We propose as future part of the Dialogue of Cultures project, a follow-up conference of scientists from North Africa and from Europe to analyse the potential of a solar energy symbiosis, which combines solar technology and power demand of Europe with the solar energy resources of North Africa. Results are to be presented from climate research on the common threat to both regions by climate change. Options are to be elaborated of how the co-operative use of renewable energies can enhance the potential to limit climate change, and further a sustainable and peaceful development in and between these regions. In contrast to the present system of fossil and nuclear power, which carries the potential for conflicts between Islamic and Western world, efforts for climate stabilisation by a solar energy symbiosis may establish a unifying goal.

  1. Confrontation or Co-operation in the 21st Century?

At the threshold of the 21st century mankind has the choice between confrontation and co-operation in dealing with global issues like the use of finite global resources or the global warming problem. Furthermore, technological achievements of western civilisation have provided to mankind the ability to demolish it's natural life resources. There are two eminent possibilities:

  1. A long lasting destruction of the biosphere by a nuclear war (the Western bomb - the Eastern bomb - the Islamic bomb).
  2. A thorough deterioration of human living conditions by the present energy system (greenhouse effect from fossil fuels and radioactive contamination from nuclear power).

Dealing with threats like these is a real challenge to humanity. In particular the high level of consumption in the western world is driving the whole world towards a climate catastrophe. This may or must be seen as an aggressive act by peoples of other cultures. In particular, the Maghreb world is facing a significant reduction of rain falls with progressing global warming, while - with a delay of several decades - the climate in European will become significantly colder when the Gulf stream comes to a stop. Such an attack on the natural living conditions, in combination with differences in cultural values, with imbalances in the access to the limited resources of nature and in social standards might ignite conflicts with the potential of uncontrollable escalations. This seems to be quite relevant for the relation between Western and Islamic world

While the present course of dangerous developments is driven by the rule of micro-economics, the transition to a sustainable development requires a co-operative approach, involving many parts of the societies. The necessity for a substantial reduction of the threats mentioned, eventually even for an elimination of their underlying risk potentials - the latter we prefer by far as compared to an improved containment or to an escalation of deterrent measures - could establish a uniting goal for the peoples of Western and of Islamic cultures. The need for defending against common threats from global change might pave the way towards a co-operative attitude. A co-operative approach will be much more powerful defeating global threats than independent actions and much more effective than confrontative measures.

We firmly believe that the existing cultural differences will not work as obstacles against joint efforts when practical projects with advantages for each side will be pursued.


II. The Co-operative Concept of a Solar Energy Symbiosis

In view of these perspectives we propose to study the potential of an

European - North African solar energy symbiosis

for preventing global climate change and for a sustainable and peaceful development of Muslim and Western world. A solar energy symbiosis will enhance tremendously the ability of the two regions or cultures, respectively, to cope with this global task, as it brings together

Since modern technology permits to transmit electrical power over distances of several thousand kilometres without significant losses, North African countries could harvest solar energy and export clean power to one of the worlds leading energy consumer: Europe. In fact, less than 1% of the Saharan area would be sufficient to provide electricity for the whole of Europe at costs close to those from fossil fuels.

This leads to the following perfect match:

Such a solar energy symbiosis, which includes the use of wind and hydro power whenever available, cannot be created over night. It will take some decades with carefully selected steps to grow. But for many reasons this process is to be started now.

For the solar energy symbiosis to become reality, the following building blocks can be envisaged:

  1. Small scale power production from wind and solar energy for supplying electricity to small, not grid connected settlements
  2. Medium scale power production for local supply by feeding regional or national grids.
  3. Large scale power production for export to Europe by intercontinental transmission lines.

The means for all three of them are available. Implementation may start immediately..

Such joint efforts will not only reduce, or eventually even eliminate, the danger of a major climate catastrophe to happen. They also will introduce co-operative elements into the relations between these Islamic and Western countries. The solar energy symbiosis is to the advantage of both:

To become a fruitful project, adapting to and supporting the societal developments, it invokes the co-operation of the peoples from North Africa and Europe, at many levels. It invokes co-operation in the fields of technology, economy, engineering, science and education, and in the field of stability in societal and international relations.

Since the renewable energies are not only clean but also abound and inexhaustible their use also eliminates the conflictive elements that are inherent to the limited fossil energy resources. With these joint efforts for a common goal, the solar energy symbiosis may turn out as an important step towards a sustainable development and a peaceful coexistence of the two cultures, without questioning their identities.


III. Potentials of Solar Energy in Morocco

In the different North African countries there are varying conditions in important parameters like access to oil and gas reserves, political system, societal development, demographic pattern, level of industrialisation, economic interests, and availability of renewable energies. To become specific we will, in what follows, deal with Morocco as an example. This does not imply any restriction to this country.

Morocco offers excellent conditions for the use of solar and wind energy. While the solar radiation conditions are similar or even slightly better in the other North African countries, the strong and steady Passat winds and its long coastline with the Atlantic put wind energy in Morocco into a unique position. Further it is important to note, that Morocco is importing almost it's entire energy in terms of coal, oil, gas and even electricity.

  1. The Wind Power Potential in Morocco

Wind is generated by solar radiation. In this sense wind energy is a special form of solar energy, and is always included when speaking about solar energy in general terms. Making use of the excellent, steady and strong Passat winds in the vast coastal regions along the Atlantic coast line will allow to generate up to about 600 Terawatt-hours per year (TWh/a) at costs competitive with oil plants. This is enough to supply for instance Germany entirely, or 50 times the present Moroccan consumption. The efficiency of wind power is characterised by the figure of equivalent full load hours, which ranges from 3000 to over 5000 hours a year. Since single wind turbines cover the power range from about 0.1 up to 3.0 Megawatt, wind power can be generated for the need of small villages as well as for the national grid. To give an idea we note that about 1.000 wind turbines of 3 MW would yield the entire present domestic consumption.

A solar energy symbiosis could emerge step by step in the following way:

  1. Domestic supply at municipal scale: Here the concept of a municipal wind park - as developed in Europe - could be applied. Further, the institution of a municipal utility as developed in Europe could serve as an useful organisational prototype to handle legal and practical matters required for the erection and operation of a wind park. Europe would provide technical components, organisational know-how, and the education of personnel for operation and maintenance.
  2. Step by step, as the build up of wind parks goes on, production of components could be transferred to Morocco, creating a new industrial branch with jobs for engineers and technicians.
  3. Following this, also research and development on wind turbine technology could be built up in Morocco, eventually leading to the export of Moroccan wind power components or even systems.
  4. Large scale wind parks for electricity export: This requires the installation of powerful transmission lines (High Voltage Direct Current technology, HVDC) connecting the more southern parts of Morocco with Europe. Electricity generated with the steady and strong Passat winds in the south has the important advantage of not being subject to arbitrary fluctuations by changing weather conditions as for wind power in northern Europe. This makes wind power a particular attractive building block for the solar energy symbiosis.


2. Solar electricity generation

In Morocco there are vast areas in the Saharan region and on the plateau east of Atlas mountains with a total of 400.000 km2 having a solar insolation of more than 1900 kWh per m2 and year. This is about twice the insolation in Europe. These regions are almost unpopulated. Solar thermal power plants can be used here to generate electricity. Already 10% of this area are sufficient to supply electricity at the scale of the full EU consumption of about 2700 TWh/a.

Table 1 summarises some key numbers on the Moroccan potential of renewable energies. These numbers demonstrate, that the Moroccan potential for climate stabilisation would almost not be employed if not by export to Europe.



Tabelle 1 : Potential for generating electricity from sun and wind by using 10% of the suitable area in Morocco.










solar 1

30 000


1 050

2 310-3300

wind 1

10 000





40 000


1 120

2 590-3880

Morocco3 1997



11,8 (0,46)4

Morocco3 2010



37,7 (1,46)

Spain 3 1994



161 (6,22)

Germany3 1995



529,9 (20,5)

EU 3 1995


2700 (104)

1 Production efficiency in kWh/kW p.a.: solar : 2.200; wind : 4.000.
2 the installed power can be raised to 15 MW/km2 .
3 consumption
4 in brackets: ratio to the minimal produktion (in %).

IV. A Follow-up Conference on the Impact of a Solar Energy Symbiosis on Climate Protection and Societal Development

In the solar energy symbiosis all means to employ solar energy for the purpose of defending against the common threat of a climate change are available for joint efforts without restrictions from boundaries between different countries or cultures. The corresponding administrative obstacles will be suspended. The only restriction is that they are not harmful to other salient interests of a participating country. This way the countries joining the climate protection partnership will achieve an optimal result for climate stabilisation from their combined resources.

The solar energy symbiosis will lead to growing interconnections between the societies, economies and states involved. Power links link more than just electricity producing and consuming devices. An European - North African hand-in-hand invokes and will generate mutual understanding, trust and reliability. It will set new frontiers for our political, cultural, social and economical horizons. Municipalities, educational institutions, scientific and societal organisations and economies from both sides are to be involved in these joint efforts. The new industrial and technological activities will be beneficial for the development of the countries involved. Further, it is not required that all countries from the Muslim and Western world participate. Actually, it may be more productive to have several such partnerships with not too many members each.

To elaborate the concept of a solar energy symbiosis and it's impact on climate protection efficiency and on societal developments, we here propose as a follow-up conference a symposium, to be organised together with scientific and ecological organisations from the countries involved. The symposium is to

The scope of the proposed symposium should be broad enough to include the salient issues, and limited enough to produce proposals for practical steps.

The symposium could take place in spring 2000. Any other specifications as to the location and as to the programme should be proposed by a preparing task force that must include members from Muslim and Western countries, i.e. from North Africa and Europe. In response to discussions with the authors, members from scientific organisations like the German Physical Society and from ecological organisations like the Hamburger Klimaschutz-Fonds have already expressed their interest to assist.

The authors are looking forward to learn from the responsibles for the Dialog of Cultures whether they will plan to include the proposed symposium as a means of generating dialogs between people from Muslim and Western societies about joint contributions to the common future of humanity.