The World Bank recently stated in an article on its website that: “Morocco is poised to make history soon when the first phase of one of the world’s largest concentrated solar power plants starts generating electricity. When fully operational, it will produce enough energy for more than one million Moroccans, with possibly extra power to export to Europe.”
In addition to providing electricity, the Noor-Ouarzazate power complex is expected to reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year which could mean a reduction of 17.5 million tons of carbon emissions over 25 years. The power complex is aimed at cost reduction whilst using new technologies to emit low-greenhouse-gas.
Morocco’s great advantage is the fact that it is the only African nation that is connected to the European electrical grid which will give Morocco access to a 400 billion Euro market for electricity.
Morocco’s environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, said that there could be a similar impact from solar energy to the region comparable to the impact of oil production in the past century. “We are very proud of this project. I think it is the most important solar plant in the world,” she said.
|Environment minister, Hakima el-Haite|
The Noor-Ouarzazate power complex is funded by around US$9 billion by international institutions, including the European Investment Bank and World Bank. The Saudi-built solar thermal plant will be one of the world's biggest when it is complete with mirrors that will cover the same area as the country's capital, Rabat.
Paddy Padmanathan of Saudi-owned ACWA Power, which is running the thermal project, said: "Whether you are an engineer or not, any passer-by is simply stunned by it. You have 35 soccer fields of huge parabolic mirrors pointed to the sky which are moveable so they will track the Sun throughout the day." He also predicts, "If Morocco is able to generate electricity at seven, eight cents per kilowatt - very possible - it will have thousands of megawatts excess.It's obvious this country should be able to export into Europe and it will. And it will not need to do anything at all… it needs to do is just sit there because Europe will start to need it."
The first phase (Noor 1 - 160 MW) is expected to go live by the end of the year.
The thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs at the 160-MW power plant will be coupled with three hours of energy storage capability. The power plant has contracted a sale price of MAD 1.6 (USD 0.159/EUR 0.150) per kWh and is expected to start feeding electricity to the grid by the end of the year.
Noor II, a 200-MW power plant with thermosolar cylindrical parabolic troughs and seven hours of energy storage capability, will sell its electricity output at MAD 1.36 per kWh.
Noor III, an installed capacity of 150 MW which will employ central tower technology with salt receivers and seven to eight hours of energy storage capability, will sell power at MAD 1.42 per kWh.
All three projects are being developed by two companies of the Saudi Arabian group Acwa Power.
|Morocco's Noor 1 solar plant|
Morocco has officially announced plans to continue its renewable energy development policy beyond the 2020 horizon with about 2,500 MW wind, solar and hydro capacity to come online between 2021 and 2025.
The new goals were revealed by Minister of Energy, Abdelkader Amara, at a ministerial meeting of the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris. Wind power is seen installing 1,000 MW new capacity between 2021 and 2015 while solar will contribute at least 1,100 MW and hydro will add some 450 MW.
In total, between 2015 and 2025, Morocco is planning to boost its renewable energy generation capacity by 6,760 MW, in which solar power will bring the majority with 3,120 MW, wind will add 2,740 MW more and hydro will grow by 900 MW, Amara, adding that the investment will total some USD 25 billion (EUR 23.5 bn).
With the new additions planned for after 2021, the total wind power capacity installed in the country should go over the 3,000 MW mark while solar will hit at least 3,140 MW in 2025.
|Morocco's Dahr Saadane wind farm|
Besides the 800 MW of wind farms which are already producing electricity, Morocco currently has 550 MW more under development and another 850 MW are soon to be awarded in a tender. The process will be finalised by the end of the year and contracts will be signed in the first quarter of 2016.
Wind power could be a major contributor in the electricity sector of Morocco. According to data presented by minister Amara in Madrid last June, the country’s onshore potential is estimated at 25 GW, of which 6 GW could be installed by 2030. The average wind speed is 5.3 metres per second (m/s) at more than 90% of the country’s territory, according to the wind atlas, developed by the Moroccan Renewable Energy Development Centre (CDER). The Tanger and Tetouan region (North of Morocco) measured particularly high at 8 to 11 m/s and 7 to 8.5 m/s were recorded for Dakhla, Tarfaya, Taza and Essaouira.
The offshore potential along the 3,500 km coast is estimated at 250 GW.
Since 2000, when the first wind farm in Morocco, the 50 MW Abdelkhalek Torres project, started turning, the sector has moved up on a steep learning curve. It had already achieved grid parity and in recent years, it has become an investment magnet with significant increase in projects.
In hydro, Morocco has 1,770 MW in operation. A further 450 MW, of which 100 MW by private investors, are expected to join the grid by 2020, and 450 MW more are now planned for construction between 2021 and 2025