TuNur targets Tunisia’s Sahara’s solar energy potential

Tunis-based renewable energy company TuNur is developing a new solar energy project aimed at producing 4.5 GW of electricity. The electricity will be fed into the European grid via three undersea cables linking Tunisia to Italy, France and Malta. It could supply two million European homes.

Until recently, renewable energy projects were an expensive investment decision. They were often subsidized by the governments of industrialized countries, which thus displayed their ecological credibility. Today, clean energy power generation is becoming a strategic asset for everyone, including developing countries. The global industry is growing at a rapid pace and the cost of the technology is also falling rapidly.

Converting sunlight into electricity is illustrated by the situation in Tunisia. TuNur, a Tunis-based company specializing in renewable energy, transmission and green hydrogen, is working to develop a new solar power project in the southwest of the country. Once completed, the project will produce 4.5 GW of electricity, which will be fed into the European grid via three undersea cables linking Tunisia to Italy, France and Malta. The electricity produced could supply two million European homes.

Once fully built, the TuNur solar complex will cover about 180 square kilometres. Hundreds of thousands of parabolic mirrors, photovoltaic cells and solar cells will be arranged to direct the intense Saharan sun to concentrated solar power (CSP) towers up to 200 meters high.

The initial phase of the project will involve building a 250 MW CSP tower, as well as the transmission cable to Malta. The cost of this construction is estimated at €85 million, with an additional €1.6 billion for the cable.

“We expect the first phase of the project to reach FID (final investment decision) in 2024, with the commercial operation and first delivery of electricity into the European grid scheduled for late 2027. We have already reached a preliminary agreement with a leading electricity buyer in the European market,” Daniel Rich, CEO of TuNur said.

The drive for carbon neutrality to limit temperature rise to 2 degrees and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine means that Europe is in desperate need of new clean energy sources. The European Commission’s REPowerEU plan aims to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds by 2022 and wean Europe off Russian fossil fuels completely by 2030. In 2021, the EU imported 155 billion cubic meters of natural gas from Russia or nearly 40% of its total gas consumption.

While there is no single solution to Europe’s energy challenge, Daniel Rich believes that the Sahara’s solar resources fit well into the continent’s future energy strategy.

“Europe and its member states have very strong renewable energy and hydrogen goals. Along with the increased deployment of domestic renewables, these can be complemented by additional solar supply from North Africa.”

The European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTOS-E) conducted an analysis that showed that the TuNur project could directly replace power generation from fossil fuels. As a result, it would result in further carbon savings and increase the integration of renewable resources into the energy mix.

“The TuNur project would result in a reduction in emissions of approximately 4 million tons of CO2 per year and an increase in socio-economic welfare of more than €500 million per year,” says Rich.


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