UK-based firm TuNur Ltd has submitted a request for authorisation with the Tunisian energy ministry for a 4.5-GW concentrated solar power (CSP) complex with molten salt storage in the Sahara desert that will export power for the European market.

The company behind the project is a joint partnership between Tunisian solar plant developer Nur Energie Ltd, whose backers include UK renewable energy investor Low Carbon, and investors from Tunisia and Malta.

The output of the huge CSP complex near Rjim Maatoug, southwestern Tunisia, is estimated to be enough to meet the demand of over five million European homes, the project developer said on its website. Some of the generated electricity will be available for domestic consumption, at the option of the local government, while the rest will be exported through a high voltage direct current (HVDC) underwater cable network, which is already being developed.

The first phase of the project will see the installation of between 250 MW and 500 MW of CSP capacity with an undersea grid connection with Malta. TuNur’s CEO Kevin Sara last week told the Climate Home that that phase, worth EUR 1.6 billion (USD 1.88bn), could be operational by 2020.

According to the plan, a second cable system that has been under development for several years now will link a 2-GW portion of the CSP facility to Italy. The third stage of the project will be larger than 2 GW and will have an undersea connection with the South of France.

The scheme is seen to provide a solution to Europe’s “increasingly urgent challenges” in the energy sector and thus help meet carbon dioxide (CO2) emission goals under the Paris Agreement and replace fossil fuel generation. “The site in the Sahara receives twice as much solar energy compared to sites in central Europe, thus for the same investment, we can produce twice as much electricity,” TuNur’s CEO noted.

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