Morocco poised to become solar superpower

Nick Myall
Monday 23 Nov 2015

A huge Moroccan solar thermal plant will be one of the world's biggest when it is complete

Morocco is set to make history when the first phase of one of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plants starts generating electricity, said the World Bank (WB) in an article on its website.

“When fully operational, it will produce enough energy for more than one million Moroccans, with possibly extra power to export to Europe,” it noted.

The solar thermal plant at Ouarzazate will harness the Sun's warmth to melt salt, which will hold its heat to power a steam turbine in the evening.

The first phase will generate for three hours after dark; the last stage aims to supply power 20 hours a day.

It is part of Morocco's pledge to get 42% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

The UN has praised Morocco for the level of its ambition. The UK, a much richer country, is aiming for 30% by the same date.

The Saudi-built Ouarzazate solar thermal plant will be one of the world's biggest when it is complete. The mirrors will cover the same area as the country's capital, Rabat.

The WB also noted that the Noor project is Morocco’s first utility-scale solar energy complex and a critical step in the Moroccan Solar Energy Program, which aims to install 2 GW of solar power by 2020.

Morocco's large slice of the Sahara desert is proving a blessing for solar power. Solar thermal technology only works in hot sunny countries. The price is falling, and its growing capacity to store energy is arousing interest.

The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is falling much faster but the International Energy Agency expects them both to play a part in an energy revolution which is likely to see solar as the dominant source of electricity globally by 2050.

The three-plant Noor-Ouarzazate complex expects to achieve over 500 megawatts (MW) installed capacity, ultimately supplying power to 1.1m Moroccans by 2018.

The plant is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year which could mean a reduction of 17.5m tons of carbon emissions over 25 years, it explained, underlining that efforts were designed to accelerate cost reduction and the commercial adoption of large-scale low-greenhouse-gas emitting generation technologies.

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Nick Myall

News Editor

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