Morocco has activated the world’s largest solar power plant in the Sahara, near the city of Ouarzazate. According to the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), by 2018 the plant will be able to supply more than a million households with electricity and at the same time reduce CO2 emissions by 760,000 tons per year.
Dubbed the Noor Ouarzazate Power Plant, the facility uses concentrated solar energy (CSP) that allows energy to be stored and used for nights and cloudy days.
When sunlight shines on the mirrors, it creates a liquidheating; When mixed with water it reaches about 400 degrees Celsius. During the process, a steam is created that drives a turbine, which then generates electricity.
The solar system is designed in such a way that the first phase is equipped with a full load capacity for the molten salt of 3 hours, while in phase 2 (Noor II and III systems) energy can be kept in reserve for up to eight hours.
To provide electricity at night or on cloudy days, a cylinder of salt is melted by the heat of the mirrors during the day and stays hot enough to generate electricity at night for up to three hours.
Ouarzazate Solar Power Plant 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 covers 450 hectares – an estimated 1,112 hectares. Noor 1 is expected to deliver 379 GWh per year after connection to the grid on February 5, 2016.
Solar Power Plant Ouarzazate Phase II / Noor II CSP
Unlike Noor I, this phase is a 200MW CSP solar array capable of storing energy for a good 7 hours while using a dry cooling system to reduce water consumption.
Covering 680 hectares, Noor Phase II is expected to deliver 600 GWh per year. It is already planned to complete the project by the end of 2017.
Solar Power Plant Ouarzazate Phase III / Noor III CSP
The Noor III, the third part of the Ouarzazate solar power plant, covers an area of 750 hectares.
While it is expected to generate 500 GWh annually, it is said to have been designed by construction professionals to store energy for eight hours. The 150 MW (gross) solar project is also expected to reduce water consumption using a dry cooling system.
Noor Solar Plant Sponsors
The Noor solar project is being funded by the World Bank, Climate Investment Funds (CIF), Clean Technology Fund (CTF), African Development Bank (AfDB) and European finance institutions after Spain, Bosch, Siemens and other investors suffered a major financial setback in 2012 Project.
According to World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, the multi-billion dollar mega-project will help create a cleaner, healthier environment and also tackle unemployment in Morocco.
He added: “With this bold step towards a clean energy future, Morocco is at the forefront of greener development and the development of cutting-edge solar technology.
“The return on this investment will matter to the country and people by increasing energy security, creating a cleaner environment and creating new industries and jobs.”
As gathered, the solar system is also expected to increase the share of renewable energy in total electricity generation from 13% to 42% – in addition to reducing CO2 emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
Above all, expectations are high that the projects will have far-reaching positive effects on the neighboring area and the entire country.
Facts about Morocco’s largest solar plant
- The solar plant is located near Ouarzazate, a city of approximately 583,000 people and a popular filming location where Hollywood blockbusters like to shoot Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia were shot.
- The first phase of the three-phase mega-project was inaugurated by His Majesty Mohammed VI on February 4, 2016. Initiated by Morocco.
- The Ouarzazate Solar Power Station (OSPS), also known as the Noor Power Station, is quite expensive in contrast to the photovoltaic panels.
- The mega project is expected to cost $9 billion.
- The construction of the solar system started in May 2013 and was officially commissioned in February 2016.
- Morocco’s largest solar system is being created using a 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.