Morocco will soon be known as a solar giant with its world’s largest concentrated solar power plant, providing electricity to 1.1 million Moroccans by 2018.
The Moroccan city of Ouarzazte has always been known for world renowned productions. From being the filming location of blockbusters such as “The Gladiator” and “Game of Thrones”, to being the location of Morocco’s biggest solar power plant, Ouarzazte is making history.
Morocco is considered the largest energy importer in the Middle East, as it imports 97% of its energy from foreign sources. By developing the world’s biggest solar power plant, the kingdom is highlighting its fortitude in lessening its dependence on fossil fuels, shifting towards a low carbon development strategy, and becoming a leading green energy provider in the region.
How does it work?
The Ouarzazte Noor complex will rely on an original technology known as Concentrating Solar Power (CSP). While this advanced technology is more expensive than the regular photovoltaic panels used elsewhere, it allows energy to be stored, hence providing energy all year long, even during the night and cloudy weather.
The Concentrating Solar Power Plant utilizes mirrors to focus sun light and heat up an internal liquid. The heated liquid is then mixed with water, and reaches a temperature of 400 degrees Celsius. This in turn, produces steam that drives the turbine to generate electrical power.
The Noor complex is expected to generate 160 megawatts of electricity, and has the ability to store solar energy for three hours after the sun sets. It is expected that this project will reduce Carbon emissions by 700,000 tons per year.
The size of the project and the mirror technology required a $9 billion investment which was provided from the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, and other international institutions.
What does that mean for Morocco’s economy?
Ouarzazte’s Solar Power Plant is not only a significant development in Morocco for sustainable development practices, but also has the potential to reap great economic benefits for the Kingdom and its citizens.
In the short and medium terms, this energy project will provide employment and will help ease Morocco’s heavy dependence on fossil fuels and energy imports. In the long-term, it could transform Morocco from an energy-importing to an energy-exporting country.
In addition, this Solar Energy Project could be the beginning of a shift in the energy dynamic in the region as a whole. Morocco is poised to become a leading partner in energy trade with Europe, given that the right tunnels are built in between the two.
The project has the potential to bring significant wealth to the country, if the market for North African energy remains robust, and if the infrastructure needed to allow for exportation to Europe is progressed. By harnessing the power of the sun, Morocco may yet be the leading energy provider in North Africa.