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Time for the Middle East to take the zero-carbon lead

As the costs of solar and wind power crash, the renewables boffins now believe that the entire planet can go zero-carbon within a few decades. (Their calculations don’t factor in the huge amounts of power we still need to sponge the existing surplus of CO2 out of the atmosphere and oceans, but hopefully we’ll get there too.)

Middle East solar opportunity

Power + shade = opportunity

But I’m now truly incredulous that the sunny oil producers (Saudi, Texas, Iraq, Kuwait, Nigeria, Angola, Venezuela, etc.) haven’t started to diversify into solar power in a big way.

It’s not like they don’t understand that the end of oil is on its way – and it’s why Saudi has been trying to dump its oil on the market before demand dries up (while spending tons of money on guns and fighter jets to put down the unrest that’s coming down the pipeline in a few years).

Obviously solar offers a Plan B: build vast solar fields, replace car fleets with EVs, export surplus power via new DC grid infrastructure. (Hey, if they have oil pipelines and internet cable, they can do DC cable. But for the non-believers, just jump ahead a few paras.)

But even better, solar offers a Plan C.

A side-product of solar fields is that they create shade – something that the oil producers tend to lack at the moment. And shade creates opportunity to do other economically useful things. Like grow vegetables (you’d obviously design the solar field to allow just the right amount of sunlight on the crops each day). And you’d get some on-the-spot irrigation from overnight condensation on the PV panels. For more water, desalinate seawater using surplus solar.

But shade also creates habitable space. So you build giant domes roofed with PV and you’ve created living and working space. Then build EVs right there with zero-carbon power.

But what about all the infrastructure that’s presently refining, moving, storing and shipping oil in all its forms? Back to PV-powered desalinization. Re-engineer some of that infrastructure to turn seawater into drinkable, crop-friendly water.

Then take that one step further. Turn a proportion of that water into liquid hydrogen and ship it out (in those otherwise worthless tankers). Because while EV trucking is still a doubtful proposition (range anxiety), truck fleets powered on liquid hydrogen are practical and achievable without much new development at all.

Not convinced? Then put the PV farms on top of giant battery factories. And fill the ships with pre-charged batteries for use in EVs and home power storage.

Or stick with Plan A, trade oil for guns, and move to Zurich when it all goes kersproing.