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Solar Power And Desalination: Gold Mines For The Middle East

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In another thread, I was debating about whether the Middle East could be prosperous if the West just left it alone. Stripping away the politics, my thoughts turned to two technologies that could potentially be mastered by Middle Eastern companies: Solar Power and Water Desalination.

 

Pretty much everyone has heard about solar power and has seen giant panels of them on rooftops and platforms. I read a news article the other day that stated some oil-rich sheiks are investing heavily in solar power research. Think about it: while the Middle East has vast reserves of oil, we know that those resources won't last forever, so in order to maintain and perhaps grow Middle Eastern economies, a new source of wealth needs to be found. Since much of the Middle East is desert, it makes sense to invest in solar technology, as solar panels need silicon, which is abundant in sand. The desert is also dry, which means that clouds and rain wouldn't inhibit large collections of solar panels constantly generating electricity to be used by the population. Necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, so the need for electricity in the wake of decreasing oil reserves should naturally spur interest into solar technology. The Middle East could become the premier designer of the best solar panel designs, which could be exported to the rest of the world. It could be said in the future that the Middle East is the best place to get high-quality solar panels.

 

Water desalination might not be as familiar, as it's still a relatively young technology. Desalination converts seawater into freshwater, through boiling and capturing the steam (or from other means), separating it from the heavier salts. I read an article recently that said Saudi Arabia obtains about 80% of its water from desalination plants. Chances are that these plants are powered from oil and gas power plants, which unfortunately pollute the air. But if solar power were mastered in the Middle East, then the problems of air pollution could disappear since solar panels could be used to power thousands of desalination plants, providing freshwater for human consumption and irrigation. Desalination technology could also improve as water resources become scarcer. It could be said that the Middle East could be the future place to get the most advanced desalination technology in the world. Desalination could be a boon to arid regions everywhere in the world.

 

These are just my thoughts of the Middle East's potential. After all, power and water are two essentials to modern life, so why shouldn't the Middle East become a leader in these fields? What does everyone think? Does anyone know of any other technologies that could be mastered?

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PropellerAds

I'm not stalking you :sl: ...

 

I agree that the ME needs something to provide an income when the oil runs out, and maybe solar and desal is the way to go. However, you seem to be implying that technological research and development needs to be restricted to the countries that will be the end users of it, and, conversely, that a country need not interest itself in research and development of products that it won't be a heavy user of. That isn't the way it works. I don't know which countries have invested the most in solar power research, but I'd be surprised if they weren't rainy European countries. The way to make money is to make a product and sell it to those who want it - it doesn't matter whether or not your own country will be a big user of it.

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I'm not stalking you :sl: ...

 

I agree that the ME needs something to provide an income when the oil runs out, and maybe solar and desal is the way to go. However, you seem to be implying that technological research and development needs to be restricted to the countries that will be the end users of it, and, conversely, that a country need not interest itself in research and development of products that it won't be a heavy user of. That isn't the way it works. I don't know which countries have invested the most in solar power research, but I'd be surprised if they weren't rainy European countries. The way to make money is to make a product and sell it to those who want it - it doesn't matter whether or not your own country will be a big user of it.

 

Ah well, I think I must have given the wrong implication. Anybody anywhere could develop and invest heavily into research of a certain problem, given the right incentives. The point I was trying to make is that those most desperate for a solution usually research such areas most heavily. The railroad, for instance, was created because miners needed a way to get ores out of deep mine shafts. The steam engine was greatly improved because of needs of miners for pumping out groundwater in deeper shafts. Sailing technology would not normally be researched heavily in landlocked areas with few sources of running water. Barbed wire was invented to keep cattle from entering certain lands; the inventor didn't dream of it being used in trench warfare.

 

So, for some people, the incentive is great riches. For others, the incentive is the desperate search for a solution to a critical problem. Many inventions came about not because someone was looking for a way to make money, but rather to simply solve a problem. Not everyone is necessarily driven to create and improve merely because of the potential financial gains. To be honest, I'd think absolute desperation for survival is a far greater incentive than monetary gains, and with the oil reserves running down, Middle Eastern countries ought to look into investing heavily into solar and desalination research and development in order for their populations to trade these technologies for others necessary for survival.

 

For your information and for others, here's a New York Times article on the Middle East and solar research: (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetnytimes(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/2009/01/13/world/middleeast/13greengulf.html"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetnytimes(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/2009/01/13/world/mi...3greengulf.html[/url]

 

Edit: Granted, this article states that most research is being done in Western countries, but with large sums of wealth from the Gulf States. They are building their own research centers in the Middle East, which could potentially grow as more people are educated and research progresses. Deserts are a perfect laboratory for solar panel research.

Edited by Wanderer

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Assalamu Alaikum, I am the last person who can contribute to what Wanderer has posted becaue my knowledge in this matter is next to nothing, but I have an idea what you are talking about. I would also like to add to your list Wind Power , generated by Wind Mills and Wind Turbines, these an work very well in Deserts lands.

 

Just my 1 cent worth of contribution.

 

Salaam.

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So, for some people, the incentive is great riches. For others, the incentive is the desperate search for a solution to a critical problem. Many inventions came about not because someone was looking for a way to make money, but rather to simply solve a problem. Not everyone is necessarily driven to create and improve merely because of the potential financial gains. To be honest, I'd think absolute desperation for survival is a far greater incentive than monetary gains, and with the oil reserves running down, Middle Eastern countries ought to look into investing heavily into solar and desalination research and development in order for their populations to trade these technologies for others necessary for survival.

 

But aren't you talking about the ME surviving economically after the oil runs out? It makes no difference whether (say) Saudi survives post-oil because it exports solar technology or because it exports (say) medical technology.

 

This is just a quibble - I agree that it's vital that the countries which survive by selling oil find something else to sell after the oil runs out, and the sooner they do it the better. And I agree that the more that is spent on solar technology the better for the planet. (Not so sure about desal - it requires huge amounts of energy and produces a very nasty waste-product - salt. I thiink that reducing the number of humans is the only way we are going to solve our water problems.)

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But aren't you talking about the ME surviving economically after the oil runs out? It makes no difference whether (say) Saudi survives post-oil because it exports solar technology or because it exports (say) medical technology.

 

This is just a quibble - I agree that it's vital that the countries which survive by selling oil find something else to sell after the oil runs out, and the sooner they do it the better. And I agree that the more that is spent on solar technology the better for the planet. (Not so sure about desal - it requires huge amounts of energy and produces a very nasty waste-product - salt. I thiink that reducing the number of humans is the only way we are going to solve our water problems.)

 

Ah well, the money obtained by exporting technology could be used to purchase food from agriculturally-rich nations, and food is necessary to survival. The salt is an issue for desalination plants, but then again, that might reduce the need to mine salt, and mining is a rather ecologically destructive practice.

 

One trend to notice is that rich countries have lower birthrates than developing countries (Some European countries have a negative birthrate), most likely due to birth control and the lessening need to have many children in order for the family to survive. If the Middle East were to improve economically, it's possible that families could become smaller as the need for many children lessens. Just about every developed nation has low or declining birthrates; the developing world has the highest birthrates.

 

I think the consumerist culture needs to be stopped from expanding. The incentive for monetary gains has produced an endless array of useless gadgets and books that are really nothing more than a waste of resources. In the U.S., we are told to be good consumers and continue to buy, buy, buy, and borrow, borrow, borrow to buy, buy, buy. It's sickening; we used to be a rather self-sufficient, ingenious, and individualist society, but we've become a lazy, ignorant, and dependent society. If we scaled back our use of resources to sensible levels, coupled with declining birthrates in newly developed countries, we may have a chance to balance things out.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Assalamu Alaikum, I am the last person who can contribute to what Wanderer has posted becaue my knowledge in this matter is next to nothing, but I have an idea what you are talking about. I would also like to add to your list Wind Power , generated by Wind Mills and Wind Turbines, these an work very well in Deserts lands.

 

Just my 1 cent worth of contribution.

 

Salaam.

 

That's something I didn't think about. Provided that the generators are properly shielded from sand debris, wind power could also be a viable asset to the Middle East. Solar power probably wouldn't work very well during a sandstorm, but wind would be excellent, and works at night, too. Thanks for that!

 

I've also recently heard about a technology called oasification (like the word "oasis"). Basically, it's the opposite of desertification, which is the process of turning fertile land into arid land. This isn't really a new technology, but as deserts grow larger each year, creative people might find creative ways of fighting desertification. Decreasing water and soil erosion is one of the classic ways of fighting it, as nutrients are prevented from being washed away, allowing plant life to live for another day. Of course, I'm not that knowledgeable about the process, and it could be further along than I think.

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Ah well, the money obtained by exporting technology could be used to purchase food from agriculturally-rich nations, and food is necessary to survival. The salt is an issue for desalination plants, but then again, that might reduce the need to mine salt, and mining is a rather ecologically destructive practice.

 

Who mines salt? Genuine question. I know my country gets its salt by evaporating seawater, using the sun as energy, and has always done so.

 

Did you know that the "carbon footprint" of people in Dubai is twice that of Americans mainly because of the energy required to run the desal plants.

 

One trend to notice is that rich countries have lower birthrates than developing countries (Some European countries have a negative birthrate), most likely due to birth control and the lessening need to have many children in order for the family to survive. If the Middle East were to improve economically, it's possible that families could become smaller as the need for many children lessens. Just about every developed nation has low or declining birthrates; the developing world has the highest birthrates.

 

Agreed.

 

I think the consumerist culture needs to be stopped from expanding. The incentive for monetary gains has produced an endless array of useless gadgets and books that are really nothing more than a waste of resources. In the U.S., we are told to be good consumers and continue to buy, buy, buy, and borrow, borrow, borrow to buy, buy, buy. It's sickening; we used to be a rather self-sufficient, ingenious, and individualist society, but we've become a lazy, ignorant, and dependent society. If we scaled back our use of resources to sensible levels, coupled with declining birthrates in newly developed countries, we may have a chance to balance things out.

 

I agree that consumerism is a dead-end but I'm a bit suspicious of "self-sufficient, individualist" rhetoric (and it is surely un-Islamic). That's slightly odd of me, I agree, as I have been using nothing but solar power for 15 years now, and I grow all my own firewood. However I'm basically a socialist and I have reaped the benefits of that - materially in that I paid nothing for my university education and nothing for excellent health care, including 3 or 4 operations; socially I've reaped the benefits by living in a society where crime is low and no-one starves. Almost everyone is reasonably well-educated and if things go wrong it is our right to receive state assistance rather than charity. We're much nicer people for it.

 

However I don't quite get your point. Are you saying that the ME should not develop technology it will sell rather than use? I don't get that.

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Who mines salt? Genuine question. I know my country gets its salt by evaporating seawater, using the sun as energy, and has always done so.

 

The U.S. and Canada have some of the largest salt mines on Earth. Several European countries also mine salt. The city of Detroit has an underground mine beneath the city with an area of about 10 square kilometers.

 

Did you know that the "carbon footprint" of people in Dubai is twice that of Americans mainly because of the energy required to run the desal plants.

 

Yes, I'm aware of that. Much of that is due to the abundance of oil in the region, which is the cheapest way to produce electricity. Solar power at the current time is a bit too expensive and inefficient for large-scale industrial uses like desalination plants. It's nice to see some of the wealthy people in the UAE be more proactive than they have been, but admittedly, progress is still slow since they've only recently begun to pour billions of dollars into solar research.

 

I agree that consumerism is a dead-end but I'm a bit suspicious of "self-sufficient, individualist" rhetoric (and it is surely un-Islamic). That's slightly odd of me, I agree, as I have been using nothing but solar power for 15 years now, and I grow all my own firewood. However I'm basically a socialist and I have reaped the benefits of that - materially in that I paid nothing for my university education and nothing for excellent health care, including 3 or 4 operations; socially I've reaped the benefits by living in a society where crime is low and no-one starves. Almost everyone is reasonably well-educated and if things go wrong it is our right to receive state assistance rather than charity. We're much nicer people for it.

 

Ah well, we can diverge here. I tend more towards libertarian and free market views. Those ideas might not necessarily translate very well into societies that traditionally have been community-centered and not individual-centered. My personal view is that states are largely inefficient since they basically just forcefully take your wealth and spend it freely. My viewpoints are such probably because I'm living in the U.S., which has largely a negative viewpoint towards socialism (it's still a nasty word here). More government for us hasn't really worked out all that well, to be honest.

 

But if the culture is such that it can work best in a socialist environment, by all means approach the problems in that manner.

 

However I don't quite get your point. Are you saying that the ME should not develop technology it will sell rather than use? I don't get that.

 

I'm saying the Middle East can do both: use and sell the technology. It'd be rather ridiculous for an inventor to not sell his invention to others for use. In order to invent, there have to be incentives. The two greatest incentives for invention are monetary gain and desperation. Yes, money could be the driving factor to invent and improve, but I think that desperation to solve a problem is an even greater incentive. Would an epidemiologist dying of some disease be driven to cure his disease more by monetary gains or by his desire to live?

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For someone from the Middle East, I can definitely relate to what you are saying Wanderer. It is however astonishing how many initiatives for solar power and deslination were literally knocked out and fought simply because of politicians. solar power panels are "illegal" on houses as the government is the only source of energy allowed, and if you want a generator for an event it needs to be a haulable quickly-in and quickly-out device, which of course means that only a diesel generator will do. people had to "hide" solar water heaters with built aluminum side walls that naturally reduce their effectiveness and not have them so prominent just to avoid the fines from the municipalities and electric government agencies. If you talk to them you find them very neutral and almost supportive of any concepts or ideas, but the bureaucracy ends up breaking entrepreneurs' spirits.

 

Water is the same thing and if someone wants to bottle drinking water, it is fine (but how would Reverse Osmosis water compete with natural spring water of Gulfa or Masafi), but if you want to build a water deslination plant to feed the pipe system, not allowed. (By the way, desalination plants work by Reverse Osmosis, which is pumping water through special membrane tubes under high pressure to force pure water through the membranes and not the salt. Evaporation would consume far less energy than RO, but would not produce 5% of the water capacity that RO can produce out of the same sized plot and resources.) The whole approach to entrepreneurial activity and allowing the private sector individuals to gain access to infrastructure business and creativity would do wonders there.

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: Solar Power and Water Desalination.

 

... about solar power and has seen giant panels of them ...

 

 

... investing heavily in solar power research.

 

 

 

 

 

... much of the Middle East is desert, it makes sense to invest in solar technology, as solar panels need silicon, which is abundant in sand.

Do we get any info concerning the progress ? It could bring good new hope.

 

 

I heard the biggest problem in solar energy is the very expensive solar cell price.

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I heard the biggest problem in solar energy is the very expensive solar cell price.

 

For people who dumped two billion dollars in that Atlantis hotel and charge on average in excess to US$250 per household for electricity per month, I think they should loosen their pockets and pay for the darn cells. :sl:

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... they should loosen their pockets and pay for the darn cells.

asSalaamu'alaykum. That's exactly right. Now, about the mass production of the cell out of from the sands, if it success, could help the poor countries to realising what we said as rohmatan lil'alamin.

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Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: I heard the Apostle of Allah, (sallallaahu `alayhi wa-sallam) say: "When you enter into the in a transaction, hold the tails of oxen, are pleased with agriculture, and give up conducting jihad, Allah will make disgrace prevail over you, and will not withdraw it until you return to your original Deen (i.e., True Islam)." (Sunan Abu Dawud: Book 23, Number 3455)

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“And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction.†(al Baqarah 195)

 

Abu Ayyub said: This verse was revealed about us, the group of the Ansar (the Helpers). When Allah helped His Prophet (sallallaahu `alayhi wa-sallam) and gave Islam dominance, we said (i.e. thought): ‘Come on! Let us stay in our property and improve it. Sunan Abu Dawood: Book 14, Number 2506

 

 

The above quoted ayah was revealed about Ansars. When the Ansar took the pledge with Rasoolullah (sallallahu alayhe wassallam) to protect him like they protect their families, and participated in Jihad fe Sabeelillah, their businesses declined. They weren’t able to take care of their farms as farms need intensive care. Therefore, their income was suffering. But when Rasoolullah sallallahu alayhe wassallam) opened Mecca, they said, “Alhamdullilah, we have supported Rasoolullah (sallallahu ‘alayhe wassallam) throughout, and now his homeland is opened and now we can go back and take care of our farms.â€All they wanted to do was to go back and work on their farms; but Allah called it destruction even though Jihad was fard kiffayah.

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“And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction.†(al Baqarah 195)

... verse was revealed about us, the group of the Ansar (the Helpers). .... we said (i.e. thought): ‘Come on! Let us stay in our property and improve it. ... ..., their businesses declined. They weren’t able to take care of their farms ...

Ma'af/sorry, i still don't catch the point yet. Is it pointing to:

 

 

... Think about it: while the Middle East has vast reserves of oil, we know that those resources won't last forever, ...
or what?

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"When you enter into the in a transaction, hold the tails of oxen, are pleased with agriculture, and give up conducting jihad, Allah will make disgrace prevail over you, and will not withdraw it until you return to your original Deen (i.e., True Islam)." .... All they wanted to do was to go back and work on their farms; but Allah called it destruction even though Jihad was fard kiffayah.

 

I am not actually getting your point Mohamed. How is this related to working on solar cells?

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asSalāmu`alaykum

I am not actually getting your point Mohamed. How is this related to working on solar cells?
or desalination either? When we do can have mass production of solar cell out from the abundant sands of the deserts, then the price can be so cheap and then desalination can use it with the abundant of sunlight making mass production of fresh drink water to be pumped to Makkah and Madinah. All those done with cheap costs as Allah swt that give the sand and sunlight abundantly.

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I'm sorry

 

I posted in wrong section.

asSalaamu'alaykum. It's alright. Which section is the right one?

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asSalāmu`alaykum

back to solar cells.

When we do can have mass production of solar cell out from the abundant sands of the deserts, then the price can be so cheap and then desalination can use it with the abundant of sunlight making mass production of fresh drink water to be pumped to Makkah and Madinah. All those done with cheap costs as Allah swt gives the sand and sunlight abundantly.

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For someone from the Middle East, I can definitely relate to what you are saying Wanderer. It is however astonishing how many initiatives for solar power and deslination were literally knocked out and fought simply because of politicians. solar power panels are "illegal" on houses as the government is the only source of energy allowed, and if you want a generator for an event it needs to be a haulable quickly-in and quickly-out device, which of course means that only a diesel generator will do. people had to "hide" solar water heaters with built aluminum side walls that naturally reduce their effectiveness and not have them so prominent just to avoid the fines from the municipalities and electric government agencies. If you talk to them you find them very neutral and almost supportive of any concepts or ideas, but the bureaucracy ends up breaking entrepreneurs' spirits.

 

In my personal opinion, I think that free markets and less government are essential to feed new industries. The types of restrictions and interference from governments you describe here show this is the case. The demand for solar power is quite obvious, it seems, and yet government gets in the way of development. During the early years of the industrial revolution, Great Britain had a monopoly on the steam engine. Machinery, designs, and skilled workers were forbidden from leaving the country. This proved to slow industrialization in the West, for a short while. But luckily, certain artisans were able to smuggle the technology out of Britain; one man even memorized the entire design of a steam engine and brought it to the United States, where government regulation was almost nonexistent until the 20th century, allowing for a revolution in science and engineering, as well as in industry, in the latter half of the 19th century.

 

So, part of the problem lies in governments realizing the potential wealth that could come to their countries. Governments should start allowing industry to develop in the Middle East, rather than impeding progress by demanding dependency on the government.

 

Water is the same thing and if someone wants to bottle drinking water, it is fine (but how would Reverse Osmosis water compete with natural spring water of Gulfa or Masafi), but if you want to build a water deslination plant to feed the pipe system, not allowed. (By the way, desalination plants work by Reverse Osmosis, which is pumping water through special membrane tubes under high pressure to force pure water through the membranes and not the salt. Evaporation would consume far less energy than RO, but would not produce 5% of the water capacity that RO can produce out of the same sized plot and resources.) The whole approach to entrepreneurial activity and allowing the private sector individuals to gain access to infrastructure business and creativity would do wonders there.

 

I originally thought that it worked by simple evaporation, but further research showed that reverse osmosis is the most efficient way of doing it. Of course, you still need the pumps to move the water. Lots of times, bottled water in the U.S. is merely water taken from the local water main, not from any spring (although some companies do get water from these sources). The big key is to take away the heavy hand of government and allow entrepreneurs to invest in the country and improve it. Liberty is the best policy, I think.

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... free markets and less government are essential to .... ... The demand for solar power is quite obvious, it seems, and yet government gets in the way of development. ...

while searching info of progress relating solar cell mass production out from sand, i found :

(you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetsolarpaneltalk(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/"]Solar Forum-Answers To Your Solar Panel Questions[/url]. Did anyone get other info?

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Solar Power and Water Desalination.

 

Pretty much everyone has heard about solar power and has seen giant panels of them on rooftops and platforms. I read a news article the other day that stated some oil-rich sheiks are investing heavily in solar power research. ..... Since much of the Middle East is desert, it makes sense to invest in solar technology, as solar panels need silicon, which is abundant in sand. .....

So, it's just your thought or it's expert saying the cells is produced out from the desert sand?

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So, it's just your thought or it's expert saying the cells is produced out from the desert sand?

 

Most solar cells today require the element silicon. Sand is mainly composed of Silicon Dioxide (SiO2[using large font size is not allowed]), and silicon can be extracted from the sand. Here's a small article that tells about some of the processes used to create solar panels: (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetcarbone-ht(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/solar/article_pv_magazine.pdf"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetcarbone-ht(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/solar/article_pv_magazine.pdf[/url]

 

So yes, the experts and manufacturers say that solar panels are made from desert sand. (I find it funny that we mine sand in my state in the U.S.) In order for this to be viable, some of the capital needs to be diverted from tourism in Dubai to research and manufacturing of solar cells. There is plenty of sand, of course, so raw materials shouldn't be a problem. But research centers, silicon refineries, and solar panel factories need to be invested in and placed within the Middle East.

 

Experts from the U.S. and Europe might need to be hired to help with the initial startup with these projects in order to advise and train local people. But after more people in the Middle East learn about this technology and become trained in the manufacture, transport, construction, and maintenance of solar panels, a healthy, competitive industry could be born.

 

After a few years of experience with this technology by increasing numbers of people, "experts" could start coming from the Middle East about solar power. A base of clean energy from solar panels and wind turbines could help fuel other industries, which could help bring many out of poverty.

 

Of course, if the nuclear fusion plant in France ever becomes commercially viable, that would be my preferred energy technology. All you need then is a healthy supply of heavy water.

Edited by Wanderer

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