Morocco has activated the world’s largest solar power plant in the Sahara desert, near the city of Ouarzazate. According to Climate Investment Funds (CIF), the plant is capable of powering over one million homes by 2018 and will also reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year.
The plant which is called the Noor-Ouarzazate power complex uses concentrating solar power (CSP) which enables energy to be stored and used for nights and cloudy days.
When sunlight beams on the mirrors, a liquid heats up; when mixed with water, it reaches about 400 degree Celsius. As the process goes on, a steam is produced, and this steam facilitates a turbine which then produces electrical power.
The solar plant is designed in such a way that its first phase comes with a full-load molten salt storage capacity of 3 hours while Phase 2 (Noor II and III plants) can keep energy in reserve for up to eight hours.
In order to provide power at night or on cloudy days, a cylinder of salt melts by the warmth of the mirrors during the day and stays hot enough to produce up to three hours of power at night.
Ouarzazate Solar Power Station Phase I/Noor 1 CSP
This phase has since been connected to the Moroccan power grid. Not only does it have an installed capacity of 160 MW, it also stretches to 450 hectares – which is an estimated 1,112 acres. It is believed that Noor 1 will deliver 379 GWh per year following its connection to the power grid on February 5, 2016.
Ouarzazate Solar Power Station Phase II/Noor II CSP
Unlike Noor I, this phase is a 200 MW CSP solar plant capable of storing energy for good 7 hours while using a dry cooling system to reduce water usage.
Constructed on an area of 680 hectares (1,680 acres), it is expected that Noor phase II will deliver 600 GWh per year. Plans are already on the ground to see that it’s completed by end of 2017.
Ouarzazate Solar Power Station Phase III/Noor III CSP
The Noor III, which is the third part of the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, covers an area of 750 hectares (1,853 acres).
While it’s expected to deliver 500 GWh per year, construction experts are said to have designed it to store energy for eight hours. The 150 MW (gross) solar project is also expected to decrease water usage with the help of a dry cooling system.
Noor Solar Plant Sponsors
The Noor solar project is funded by the World Bank, the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), Clean Technology Fund (CTF), the African Development Bank (AfDB), and European financing institutions, following a major financial setback in 2012, when Spain, Bosch and Siemens and other investors pulled out from the project.
According to World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, the multi-billion mega project will help create a cleaner and healthier environment and also tackle unemployment in Morocco.
He added: “With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting-edge solar technology.
“The returns on this investment will be significant for the country and its people, by enhancing energy security, creating a cleaner environment, and encouraging new industries and job creation.”
As gathered, the solar plant is expected to also jack up the share of renewable energy in total electricity generation from 13% to 42% – this is in addition to cutting back on carbon emissions and reliance on fossil fuels.
Above all, there are high expectations that the projects will go a long way in impacting positively on the neighbouring area and the country at large.
Fast Facts About Morocco’s Largest Solar Plant
- The solar plant is situated near Ouarzazate, a town inhabited by approximately 583,000 people and a popular filming location where Hollywood blockbusters like Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were shot.
- The first phase of the three-phases mega project was kicked off by His Majesty Mohammed VI of Morocco on 4 February 2016.
- The Ouarzazate Solar Power Station (OSPS), also called Noor Power Station is quite expensive, unlike the photovoltaic panels.
- The mega project is expected to cost a whopping $9 billion.
- The construction of the solar plant began in May 2013 while it was officially commissioned in February 2016.
- Morocco’s largest solar plant is developed with Parabolic trough, a type of solar thermal collector that is straight in one dimension, curved as a parabola in the other two and lined with a polished metal mirror.