Gerhard Knies, a German particle physicist, was the first person to estimate how much solar energy was required to meet humanity's demand for electricity. In 1986, in response to the Chernobly accident, he concluded that in just six hours, the world's deserts receive more energy from the sun than humans consume a year.
Until recently the plan to give over portions of Saharan Desert to solar energy production seemed fanciful, but in the last two years an international consortium of companies has formed Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii). Last month, Dii announced that the first phase of the Desertec Plan will begin construction in Morocco next year near Ouarzazate.
Opponents of the project have argue that Dii is too dominated by German interests and that the project carries with it a sense of neo-colonialist exploitation. "Many Africans are sceptical [about Desertec]," says Daniel Ayuk Mbi Egbe of the African Network for Solar Energy. "[Europeans] make promises, but at the end of the day, they bring their engineers, they bring their equipment, and they go. It's a new form of resource exploitation, just like in the past."