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First 160MW of huge Noor solar thermal plant connected to Moroccan grid

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The first 160MW of what stands to be the largest concentrating solar power (CSP) plant in both the Middle East and North Africa region and the African continent were brought online in Morocco’s Ouarzazate province on Friday, four years after construction of the massive project began.

The massive grid-connected Noor project – Noor means “light” in Arabic – uses solar thermal technology, with parabolic troughs that focus the sun’s energy on heating a fluid that in turn powers a generation turbine.

Morocco chose CSP because of the need for storage, although it will also build solar PV and wind plants. Abdelkader Amara, the country’s energy minister, said the country intends to expand its interconnections to Spain and neighbouring Algeria, and also open a connection to Mauritania to the south and through that to other countries, where few people have access to electricity.

The next two phases of Noor will total 350MW, and are scheduled to come online by 2018 and should make it the largest CSP complex in the world.

Ultimately, the project is expected to have a combined capacity of 2GW by 2020 after all the units are complete.planta-noor-1-en-construccion-un-proyecto-de-sener

The entire cost of the complex will come to about $9 billion and will be spread over at least four locations in Morocco, a spokesman for the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, known as Masen, said.

Currently, Morocco sources 98 per cent of its energy needs from fossil fuel imports, but is pushing to reach a 52 per cent renewable energy target within 15 years, for reasons of energy security and addressing climate change.

The World Bank, which along with the African Development Bank and the ClF have provided over US$1 billion in financing for the Noor project, says that the project will lower costs for CSP.

“Independent analysis concludes that the low-cost debt is already driving down the cost of CSP in Morocco by 25 per cent for Noor I and an additional 10 per cent for Noor II and III (achieved in 2015), thus reducing the government subsidy required to bridge the affordability gap for CSP,” noted World Bank in a press statement.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance chief solar analyst Jenny Chase said the real test for the solar thermal technology used at Noor would be in the operation over the next five to 25 years



“If it is not highly technically successful, more of the solar thermal pipeline in the Middle East and North Africa region is likely to be switched to PV,” she said.

The project was also funded by the European Investment Bank and Germany’s KfW, which each contributed €100 million.

The European Union and Germany’s environment ministry also funded the project with €30 million and €15 million, respectively.  

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  • david_fta

    Australia’s got more sun than Morocco, even – Pilbara CSP could provide heat and electricity for carbon-free Molten Oxide Electrolysis to win iron from iron ore.

    Someone should tell Twiggy Forrest.

    • Alastair Leith

      twiggy follows the booms, he’s into beef and dairy now, GHG emitters par excellence.

      • Pedro

        Then in about 10 years time the likes of Twiggy will make a pile of money in climate change mitigation.

        • Alastair Leith

          there winners and losers in this world, Twiggy and his ilk can’t help it if they’re the winners can they?

          • Pedro

            Its a great help when the winners are born into great wealth

      • david_fta

        It’s irrelevant how much GHG cattle emit, because every atom of carbon they emit is carbon that went from atmosphere to plant to cow to atmosphere.

        What is critical is that all buried carbon remain in the ground; that we cease digging up all carbon from underground and putting it back in the atmosphere.

        In fact, it is the conflation of biologically cycled atmospheric carbon with buried fossil carbon that has been the fossil fuel industry’s biggest triumph. So long as people believe there is no difference, those bits of slime will continue on their dissembling road to riches.

        • Alastair Leith

          With respect you are profoundly wrong, David.

          Not an uncommon assumption, and i’ve heard not quite but just about as bad from the UK scientist appointed to advise government when he came to Australia a couple of years ago. I also heard Alan Finkel our new chief scientist say that non-industrial and land use sector emissions in Australia are 6% of total GHG which is also profoundly wrong and the science doesn’t support such claims for even a moment.

          Firstly your assumption about “natural carbon cycles”
          a) if an atom of carbon in cellulose finds itself moving out of sugar and into a methane molecule it is not gone from being sequester to being a GHG, it is 104x more potent than the CO2 molecule it was in prior to it being in a cellulose molecule.

          So the round trip is not climate neutral, it’s profoundly unbalanced. Using 100 year Global Warming Potential accounting (GWP) that molecule of methane will force warming for the next 100 years 29x more than a CO2 molecule*. Over the next twenty years that methane molecule will force warming in the atmosphere 86x* more than a CO2 molecule. Over ten years it’s radiative forcing will be closer to the 104x radiative forcing it is over CO2 at any given moment, molecule for molecule. The difference between 100 year to 20 year to no-time-period is due to the decay of methane in our atmosphere into CO2 and water, and it’s non-linear with methane currently having a half life of ~7 years. It reacts with hydroxyl radicals and the increasing levels of methane are reducing the concentration of hydroxyl radicals which therefore increases the half-life of methane in the atmosphere over time (a positive feedback). More info…

          b) Methane in the atmosphere is increasing and the increase since 1750 has seen a 150% increase in atmospheric concentration. This correlates to an increase in average Earth temperature of 9 °C using historical levels so it’s out-running CO2 increases dramatically (see graph).

          c) Now, just because people talk in 100 GWP mostly due to it being appropriate to get a long term view of CO2, which is our major GHG, that doesn’t make it any more or less valid than than 20 GWP. The next twenty years is going to be pretty significant in terms of irretrievable collapses in land sheet ice at the poles (sea level rise and methane potentially bombs that will dwarf anthropomorphic emissions) and Himalayan glacial ice melt that 2 billion people depend on for drinking and agriculture.

          d) Also it’s not just methane from enteric fermentation associated with livestock in Australia, it’s land clearing and it savannah burning that are major GHG contributors (CO2, CO, CH4, nitrous oxides, black carbon which isn’t even measured yet). Almost all of this is associated with the Northern Australian extended zone pastural operations north of the QLD/NSW boarder in QLD and NT. It accounts for 90% of land use emissions according to the peer reviewed BZE Land Use Report.

          The totality of land use sector emissions is actually around 54% of national emissions using 20 year GWP accounting and will soon be at 50% using 100 year GWP. And of that total Land Use emissions, 90% is from northern Australian livestock operations that export brahman beef mostly as frozen burger mince meat (15% is live export).

          So 50% of Australia’s GHG emissions are from livestock. That’s what peer reviewed science tells us, David! And by controlling the rampant land clearing and burning for livestock and export profits by a handful of corporate interests could halve our emissions profile. Here’s a paper with all the supporting references in contemporary science.

          Ceasing this northern Australian livestock production would buy us 15 years of current fossil fuel emissions to transition to 100% RE in our stationary energy and transport sectors, that’s nothing to sneeze at and certainly not “irrelevant”, David.

          * Each IPCC Assessment Report the index for methane has been revised upwards, these numbers are from AR5, the latest AR. 104x is the figure a NASA paper put on the difference in absorption of IR between CH4 and CO2 at any given moment.

          • david_fta

            Thanks Mr Leith, but you miss my point – which is that there is carbpn in the climate system – the atmosphere, the oceans (inorganic ie oxidised), in the biosphere (organic ie reduced) and soils (permafrost/peat). This carbon is relatively labile, in the sense that it gets transferred between various reservoirs in the course of normal biological and physical processes on a relatively short timeframe.

            In fact, the carbon exchange between these reservoirs is what has driven much of the magnitude of the climate fluctuations of the last 3 million years (Pleistocene). Over time, the climate system deals with this carbon.

            Then there’s deep, geologically sequestered carbon. That’s the carbon that has been deposited in deep strata hundreds of millions of years ago, allowing the world to cool down to the stage where it’s good for humans and other modern biota. That’s the carbon which we return to the climate system to our peril.

            Sure, methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it has a realtively short atmospheric lifetime before being oxidised to CO2. If you’re going to worry about cattle, you should be more worried about all those wet rice padis – as Walter F Ruddiman points out, they’ve been adding to atmospheric greenhouse gases in increasing extent for the last several millennia – ever since wet rice cultivation was first conducted.

            For example: a) if an atom of carbon in cellulose finds itself moving out of sugar and into a methane molecule it is not gone from being sequester to being a GHG, it is 104x more potent than the CO2 molecule it was in prior to it being in a cellulose molecule … relax, its halflife as CH4 is ~7 years, after which it becomes CO2, then resorbed into a plant.

            That’s what the carbon cycle is.

          • Alastair Leith

            I don’t miss your point, i see your point and it is wrong. You might be relaxed but that doesn’t make methane any less a dangerous greenhouse gas. And rice paddies are responsible for about a tenth of the methane that livestock are globally and guessing probably about 0.01% in Australia. Certainly it’s much low than livestock globally and especially in Australia. And rice feeds us with a lot more calories per billion methane molecules than a cattle per billion methane molecule which is very heavy in it’s GHG, water, land use and other footprints. Certainly Masanobu Fukuoka showed rice can be grown without using the paddy method with superior yields if soil biota is maintained and I’d encourage the world to move in that direction. I know the GMO wiz kids are looking at just that, even though conventional advanced breeds of rice can do it anyhow with initial soaking only.

            What part of fifteen years of all fossil fuel combustion don’t you think is significant?! If you’ve completed and understood the Melbourne Uni course (I understand there were some problems with elements of the curriculum) then you would know methane is a very important GHG. But even more likely it should be that you’d realise we’re fast running out of time. It’s already too late to stay below 1.5ºC baring some miracle sequestration tech discovery. 2ºC is also unlikely once you remove the cooling sulphates coal plants are responsible for (assuming they were shut down tomorrow). Hand waving and relaxing don’t have any relevance to the atmosphere and Climate change. More info…Redo the Math by David Spratt

            I recall being a the Royal Society symposium on CC Adaptation (mostly in agriculture but also cover many other areas) in ~2013 and one of the presenters who was an ag scientist nonchalantly dismissed methane the way you did when I raised the issue of fugitive methane emissions in fossil gas extraction with a panel Ross Garnaut was on. She literally said it’s gone in no time. I checked with atmospheric physicist David Karoly who set up the CC short course I think you are referring to who was also present in the room and he said I was completely correct to raise those concerns about methane fugitive emissions (making it worse than burning coal with FE > 3%) and that it’s wrong to dismiss methane on account of its half life. And CH4 emissions from EF in livestock are bigger than FE from fossil gas extraction in Australia and globally too.

            One more thing you might want to reflect on with your “relax it’s half life is only 7 years” is that there is a stock of methane in the atmosphere and — to use the old bathtub analogy — while decomposition of methane in the atmosphere (not actually oxidation see previous link it’s a more complex set of reactions) represents the bath drain, enteric fermentation represents the fattest running pipe into the bathtub. And while the pipe is running harder than the drain can release it, that represents not just an infinite *stock* life for methane, that represents an infinite lifetime with increasing potential to damage. And like I said the more methane the less hydroxyl which means the half life goes up some more.

            Maybe you won’t be so flip next time. If you’d like a PDF of that paper I linked to (behind a paywall) which establishes everything I have said in the science literature I can email it to you.

          • david_fta

            Look, I’ve tried to be polite, b ut it seems you need a more direct approach.

            1) The entire bloody increase in atmospheric CO2 since the industrial revolution is attributable to fossil fuel consumption.

            So why does that matter?

            2) because without increase in atmospheric CO2 since the industrial revolution, there would be no greenhouse problem … at worst, greenhouse warming might have risen to the equivalent of 300 ppm CO2.

            Sure, atmospheric methane is a problem now, but only because of past fossil fuel consumption.

            When you then go on to realise that about half of anthropogenic methane is due to fugitive emissions from fossil fuel extraction, you’ll finally start to wake up to realise that worrying about biotic methane is a furphy put out by the fossil fuel industry – and their arsewipes in the Australian government who will do whatever they can to keep the coal mines going.

            Now, I’m not with BZE or anything, I’m just an Australian citizen who’s been increasingly concerned with greenhouse warming over the last 4 decades, so if you want to have a look at my bona fides I suggest you download the file attachment to my submission to Clownshoes’s post-2020 “consultation”: http://www.dpmc.gov.au/taskforces/unfccc/public-submissions/arthur-david; at the bottom of that webapage is a link to the Word document I wrote and sent to them, it includes a longer profile than the one I’ve got up at the Conversation.

            My position is and remains: we eliminate fossil fuel use first, because that’s what we need to do. Reafforestation and other steps will achieve the rest. As for cattle, there’s a difference between intensive feed-lot production and rangeland pasturing; the former is emissions-intensive, the latter is a higly efficient method of harvesting primary productivity of semi-arid rangelands – and it gives leaner, higher-protein beef.

          • Daniel

            David, I think it is very ignorant when you say ‘It’s irrelevant how much GHG cattle emit’. Much of your argument is more or less factual but you are missing the point that, natural cycle or not, the (increasing) stock of methane in our atmosphere is and will increasingly, exacerbate the warming caused by the increase in CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. I really don’t think Alastair is arguing that CO2 is not critically important to this debate but it all needs to be considered as a whole because every cow fart just like every fossil fuel power plant, adds to the warming the planet is experiencing and puts us closer to feedback loops that will continue long after the methane has broken down in the atmosphere.

          • david_fta

            Thanks Daniel, but I repeat: in the absence of fossil fuel consumption, cow farting is not a problem.

            Now, I’ll accept that agricultural methane emissions may be problematic, but only in the context of fossil fuel consumption. Even then, at least some agricultural methane emissions may be part of the solution, but only if they can be captured and used for power generation (which would go to replacing fossil fuel use anyway).

            I repeat – and this is crucial for every p[erson on the planet to understand: every tonne of fossil fuel is doing damage; ALL fossil fuel use MUST cease.

          • david_fta

            I’ve just remembered that I’d done an essay on what Australia’s carbon policy should be, for a short online course on Climate Change run by Uni Melb.

            In the first section of my essay, I showed that CO2 addition to the atmosphere from fossil fuel use since the start of the Industrial Era actually exceeds the entire amount by which atmopheric CO2 has increased.

            “In 1760, around the time of the commencement of the Industrial Revolution, the atmosphere contained about 2,176 billion tonnes of CO2. By 1910, industrial processes (coal, oil and gas combustion, and cement manufacturing) had emitted 70 billion tonnes of CO2 , all of which added to the atmosphere so that it contained 2,246 billion tonnes of CO2 in total.

            “By 1960, these industrial processes had emitted 306 billion tonnes of CO2, almost all of which remained in the atmosphere so that it contained 2,479 billion tonnes of CO2 in total. Monitoring at the USA’s National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Earth Systems Research Laboratory at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, which had commenced in the 1950’s, showed an average atmospheric CO2 for 1960 of 316.9 parts per million (ppm).

            “By 2010, these industrial processes had emitted 1,335 billion tonnes of CO2, and we’d therefore expect the atmosphere to contain 3,511 billion tonnes of CO2; that the atmosphere contained only 3,040 billion tonnes of CO2, because the other ~471 billion tonnes of CO2 had been either dissolved into (and made more acidic ) oceans, or taken up land plants. Ocean acidification threatens major adverse ecological impacts.”

            I should have set these data out first up, Mr Leith; sorry I’d forgotten to do so.

          • Alastair Leith

            Off course oceans absorb CO2 as it gets dissolved and transported beneath the surface. no question. other processes too like mineralisation but much less significant IIRC.

    • Jacob

      Where will the water come from.

      Solar PV + batteries are so cheap now and you would avoid the transmission fees and taxes by making your own electrons at home.

      • david_fta

        Where will the water come from? Steam cycle can be closed, need only make-up water, most likely piped from Lake Argyle. External cooling might have to be air-cooled, like they’re doing at Kogan Creek … (http://www.csenergy.com.au/content-(42)-kogan-creek.htm, http://kogansolarboost.com.au).

        • Jacob

          Lake Argyle is not in Morocco.

          • david_fta

            Thanks Jacob, when you asked from where the water would be drawn, I assumed you were referring to CSP being installed in the Pilbara region – since that was the point of my comment.

            As to how water requirements of Noor-1 are being satisfied, perhaps you could loofk the project up on the net, and report back with what you learn?

          • Jacob

            What I learnt is that the cost of power from solar PV is below US 5c/kWh or will be soon.

            And the cost of storing electrons will be 5c/kWh soon.

            So given the transmission losses, what is the point of CSP.

            I liked CSP until a few months ago when I read about birds being fried to death by them.

            But if the boffins crack the riddle of flow batteries or solid state lithium batteries, then CSP is pointless.

          • david_fta

            “So given the transmission losses, what is the point of CSP.”

            There are places, not more than a couple of thousand miles from Morocco, where the sun doesn’t much shine for months at a time – so even with transmission losses, demand for Moroccan CSP power may persist. Anyway, I understand transmission losses are decreased for HV DC, as opposed to HV AC.

            Finally, there’s always the chance that Morocco might even want the power for itself – powering a rail network, maybe even heavy industry – electrowinning metals, steel fabrication and so on.

          • Jacob

            They can get electrons from solar panels. No need for CSP.

          • david_fta

            Need to put the panels where the sun shines – Morocco, maybe – in which case you’ve still got transmission losses, and the fact that CSP utilises much higher proportion of insolation.

          • Jacob

            If you look at India, they install solar PV very quickly.

            And labour is cheap so Mr James Wimberley and Ms Marion Meads say the cost of installing in India is just U$1/watt. Excluding the price of the panels I think.

            But to install CSP, you need a turbine and a tower. Not so cheap to build.

            The heliostats probably need tracking while solar panels do not.

            Maybe cleaning the panels is cheaper than cleaning the heliostats.

          • david_fta

            ” The heliostats probably need tracking while solar panels do not.”

            Actually, large-scale solar PV in India does have solar tracking.

  • Jacob

    Some say that solar PV + batteries are so cheap now and getting cheaper every year that there is no point in building a CSP station.

    • Alastair Leith

      some need to do some careful analysis before making assumptions. there are many factors involved and grid needs. certainly substation level chemical storage looks good for grid services already, households all duplicating reserve power so they can go off gird would cost the nation many times over what grid level storage could provide, be it substations for solar variability (cloud) and frequency control or at wind farms for power and frequency smoothing or utility for “dispatch” power and grid services.

      • Jacob

        Well Tesla cars have an oversized battery considering that people do not go on road trips every month.

        Which nation? Are you ignoring the fact that the grid in Vic charges houses $1/day just for being connected.

        Can you use the Enter button instead of posting a wall of text.

        • Alastair Leith

          ENTER

        • Alastair Leith

          not ignoring household energy bills. pointing out to you that one local area grid level storage battery of say 50 kWh of energy can perform the same task as far more than ten 5kWh batteries in your home and your nine neighbours’ homes.

          I don’t know how many more and it would depend on the modelling as the number you came up with but there’d be considerable overlap because you won’t all need to be drawing at the same time. and if there’s time when you do, well pumped hydro energy storage is pretty cheap when the wholesale price of power gets very expensive at peak maximums.

          I realise it’s rent-seeking utilities driving this thing. Very clear on that, Jacob. But what if we had Grid reform and you and I could share energy in a similar way that we can share data over IP? all of a sudden we couldn’t get gauged anymore on peak hour usage. If the networks were not running a racket for capital growth (gold plating) our charges would be less than $1 a day. That’s what I intend to write about soon.

          if you and a few mates start abandoning the grid the price goes up for the rest of us. do the utilities or government wake up, or do we see the death spiral play out? If we do, nobody wins, least of all consumers even if you are energy independent you paid far to high for the privilege and at a price most can’t afford.

          • Jacob

            The ABC Catalyst episode last week showed 1-2 new suburbs that will be off-grid.

            The developers probably thought, “hey, instead of just selling houses, why not sell electrons too?”.

          • Alastair Leith

            yes was good, and they are doing it with shared batteries which leverage costs across more than one property title (an energy grid) and in one case substation level storage, which is more effective and therefore has a cost benefit to developers and purchasers. Note, none of the houses or developments or suburbs were doing away with the concept or the reality of a GRID.

            the challenge of course remains retro fitting existing suburbs and urban areas that are a much greater percentage of the built environment (something like on 10% of property in the last decade is new development and it’s still largely on existing property titles). this was the focus of the BZE Buildings Plan and why they went for substation level storage and domestic level PV.

          • Jacob

            The new suburbs shown, I think, will have a thin connection to the grid instead of a 20-40 ampere connection from the grid to each house.

            Micro-grids owned by developers are still a good thing as developers can compete against each other by offering cheaper power.

          • Alastair Leith

            I suspect it was a bit more thought out than that, many developers are interested in how they can improve the sustainability ‘features’ and image of a development in what is generally still a very resource intense economic activity —both building the development and it’s occupant footprint.

            They are looking to reduce the occupant footprint more so than the construction footprint with energy innovations. And yes if they can financially benefit from shafting the recalcitrant utilities, why not?