The north African country of Morocco – the host of the next climate change conference – will start generating power from its first concentrated solar power plant in the next few days as it announces a push to reach 52 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
Abdelkader Amara, the country’s energy minister, said the 160MW Noor 1 plant will open in the next few days. It is the first of three stages at the giant Noor complex, and one of numerous large-scale solar and wind projects planned for the country in the next decade.
Morocco currently sources 98 per cent of its energy needs from imports, and the push to 52 per cent renewable energy within 15 years is about both energy security and addressing climate change.
Earlier this year, Amara said, Morocco phased out all fossil fuel subsidies, a decision he described as “politically courageous”, but made easier by the fall in price of oil.
“Renewable energy is not a magic wand that will fix all problems,” Amara said. “But it is the future, and you have to build it in the most intelligent way possible.”
Morocco chose CSP because of the need for storage, although it will also build solar PV and wind plants. Amara said the country intended 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.
“We have a lot of wind and sun,” Amara said. “So to reduce our dependence on imported fuel, and to address climate issues, we had the opportunity to look at renewable energy and we decided to focus on wind and solar.
Morocco is looking to use the certainty provided by power purchase agreements to attract the $30 billion of investment it will need to meet its target.
The Noor plant is being constructed in a 30 square kilometer area outside the city of Ouarzazate, on the fringe of the Sahara desert, famous as the filming location of Hollywood blockbusters like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Gladiator,” and the TV series “Game of Thrones.”
By the time the project is finished in 2020, it will have capacity of 580MW. The subsequent stages include another parabolic trough array, a solar tower array with storage, and a 70MW solar PV array.
Amara notes that the contracts signed between the different stages of the project showed significant price reductions, and these would continue.
The solar tower power plant will have eight hours of storage, opening the prospect of 24/7 solar energy in the Sahara and surrounding region. Morocco plans to install 2,000MW of solar power capacity by 2020.
“These projects will show that we can reconcile the need to grow our economy, and high levels of renewable energy,” Amara said, noting that developed economies locked into fossil fuels faced a more difficult transition.
Morocco has also built the 131-turbine Turfaya wind farm and recently announced finance for the development of 120MW Khalladi wind farm near Tangiers.