Morocco – Solar Plant Launched

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One of the largest solar power plants in Africa is hoped to boost energy self-sufficiency.

Moroccan King Mohammed VI inaugurated the country’s first solar power plant, Noor 1 on February 4th, as part of the government’s push to boost its clean energy output. The ceremony, in Ouarzazate, was attended by Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane and French Environment Minister Segolene Royal.

“The solar plant underlines the country’s determination to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, use more renewable energy, and move towards low carbon development,” its developers said in a statement.

Once all phases are complete, it will be “the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world,” producing 500 megawatts of electricity and providing power to more than 1 million people by 2018, its developers said. A total of $3.9bn has been invested in the project.

The plant has around half a million metal mirrors, which store thermal energy from the sun, which in turn power steam turbines that produce the electricity. The next phases of the project are Noor 2 and Noor 3 which will commence construction in 2016 and 2017; the call for tenders for Noor 4 is also now open.

Estimates suggest that the plant will reduce Morocco’s carbon emissions by 760,000 tonnes per year, equivalent to around 1% of the country’s CO2 emissions, which stood at around 56.5m tonnes in 2011, according to the World Bank.

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The construction of Noor 1 was launched in 2013, to a cost of US$660m, involving a workforce of around 1000 people; the construction contract was awarded to Saudi Arabian company ACWA Power. The project is being funded the by African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank.

According to Mafalda Duarte, Manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided around $435m to the project, “It is a very, very significant project in Africa…Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process,” cited UK-based the Guardian.

Morocco plans to use the next United Nations (UN) climate change conference, scheduled for November in Marrakesh, to launch more ambitious future plans to source 52% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Duarte added, “Morocco knew their demand for electricity was growing at 7% a year and that they  were dependent on imports for 97% of that energy…they had a vision to promote renewables at a time when oil prices were high and they undertook regulatory reforms, put institutions in place, and they have done a great job.”

(© AFP 4/2 2016)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

POWER: Ethiopia
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.6, Pp.20901C–20903C

POWER: General
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, Issue.2, Pp. 20758A–20761A

POWER: Egypt
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.51, Issue.11, Pp.20651A–20652A

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