Morocco launches first solar power plant – Al Arabiya

By AFP Ouarzazate, Morocco Friday, 5 February 2016

King Mohammed VI on Thursday inaugurated Morocco’s first solar power plant, a massive project that the country sees as part of its goal of boosting its clean energy output.

Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and French Environment Minister Segolene Royal were among local and foreign officials who attended the opening on the edge of the Sahara desert, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside Ouarzazate.

Royal said the project gave “great hope to all countries with a lot of sun and desert” who could also use solar panels to produce electricity.

“The solar plant underlines the country’s determination to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, use more renewable energy, and move towards low carbon development,” its developers said in a statement.

With an electricity production capacity of 160 megawatts, Noor 1 is supposed to allow Morocco to significantly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

An aerial view of the solar mirrors at the Noor 1 Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant, some 20km (12.5 miles) outside the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate (Photo: AFP)

The project’s next phases – Noor 2 and Noor 3 – are to follow this year and next, and a call for tenders is open for Noor 4.

Once all phases are complete, it is to be “the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world” and produce 500 megawatts of electricity, providing power to more than one million Moroccans by 2018, its developers said.

It is to reduce Morocco’s carbon emissions by 760,000 tonnes per year, they added.

That would be equivalent to about one percent of Morocco’s CO2 emissions of around 56.5 million tonnes in 2011, according to World Bank figures.

Morocco has scarce oil and gas reserves, and is the biggest importer of energy in the Middle East and North Africa.

The solar plant’s launch comes as Morocco seeks to raise its renewable energy production to move beyond this heavy dependency and face growing electricity consumption set to quadruple by 2030.

The country started producing electricity at Africa’s largest wind farm in its southwestern coastal region of Tarfaya last year.

Morocco, to host next year’s world climate change conference COP22, aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 32 percent by 2030.

Morocco launched construction of Noor 1 in 2013, at a cost of 600 million euros ($660 million) and involving roughly 1,000 workers.
A consortium led by Saudi developer ACWA Power won the contract to build the plant.

The African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank are helping to fund the project.

Spread over an area equivalent to more than 600 football pitches, the plant’s half a million metal mirrors follow the sun as it moves across the sky.

They store thermal energy from its rays and use it to activate steam turbines that produce electricity.
Morocco to switch on first phase of world’s largest solar plant – GUARDIAN

Desert complex will provide electricity for more than 1 million people when complete, helping African country to supply most of its energy from renewables by 2030
Arthur Neslen

Thursday 4 February 2016 06.47 EST
Morocco’s king will switch on the first phase of a concentrated solar power plant on Thursday that will become the world’s largest when completed.

The power station on the edge of the Saharan desert will be the size of the country’s capital city by the time it is finished in 2018, and provide electricity for 1.1 million people.

Noor 1, the first section at the town of Ouarzazate, provides 160 megawatts (MW) of the ultimate 580MW capacity, helping Morocco to save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

“At around 2pm, the king will press a button, the parabolic mirrors will start turning, the heat will begin to turn the turbines and the plant will come to life,” said Maha el-Kadiri, a spokeswoman for Masen, Morocco’s renewable energy agency.
Morocco poised to become a solar superpower with launch of desert mega-project

King Mohammed VI will then lay the foundations for Noor 2, the next stage of the solar complex. Noor 1 had been due to open in December but was delayed by unspecified “agenda concerns,” el-Kadiri said.

After it is switched on, the plant will initially provide 650,000 local people with solar electricity from dawn until three hours after sunset.

“It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”

The north African country plans to generate 42% of its energy from renewables by 2020, with one-third of that total coming from solar, wind and hydropower apiece.

Morocco hopes to use the next UN climate change conference, which it hosts in November, as the springboard for an even more ambitious plan to source 52% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

“Between now and [the next conference], many projects will have come to light and we will prove that we can match our energy demands with renewables,” the country’s energy minister, Abdelkader Amara, said at a meeting during the Paris climate summit in December.

Such a move would have regional implications. CIF estimates that if international banks and governments deployed another 5GW of solar energy, electricity production costs could fall by 14%. Scaling that up to 15GW would cut costs by 44%.

Some $3.9bn has been invested in the Ouarzazate solar complex, including $1bn from the German investment bank KfW, $596m from the European Investment Bank and $400m from the World Bank.

If the dreams of its architects are realised, the resulting energy will eventually be exported north to Europe, and eastwards to Mecca, as well as providing a secure source of energy at home.

“Morocco knew their demand for electricity was growing at 7% a year and that they were dependent on imports for 97% of that energy,” Duarte said. “They had a vision to promote renewables at a time when oil prices were high and they undertook regulatory reforms, put institutions in place, and they have done a great job.”