In February 2016, Morocco inaugurated a gigantic solar power plant in Ouarzazate in the middle of the desert, the largest in the world ever built.
Thousands of solar panels, spread over 3 000 hectares, the equivalent of 3500 football fields. It’s the area over which the Noor solar power plant (in Arabic, the word means light) extends, in Ouarzazate, in southern Morocco. Located at the entrance to the Sahara desert, the complex has an installed capacity of 580 MW, enough to supply 1 million households with electricity. The equivalent of the city of Prague, or twice Marrakech. A conventional nuclear reactor generally has a power rating of around 1,000 MW.
Morocco’s ecological ambitions
Morocco does not hide its goal of becoming the world leader in renewable energies. In addition, a 100% solar village was even established in Morocco. The country has an ambitious energy target: it aims to achieve 42% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. And it is on the way to reaching the latter since 35% of its energy is already renewable thanks to this type of site.
The complex, inaugurated in February 2016, saves the planet from 760,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. The site of this concentrated thermodynamic power plant also: in the middle of the solar panels, a 243-meter tower.
Giant mirrors are oriented around it, making it the only point where water passes, which is transformed into steam to drive a turbine and produce electricity. A technique with a main interest: the temperature reaches 560°C compared to 390°C for a conventional parabolic mirror power plant. This concentration system makes it possible to avoid the rest of the night hours. The plant thus ensures the injection of electricity into the circuit up to seven hours after sunset.
Morocco, Europe’s future supplier of clean energy?
With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, Morocco could change the situation at the regional level. Already, at the 2016 Climate COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco signed an agreement with Germany, Spain, Portugal, and France to strengthen energy exchanges.
A submarine power line connects Morocco to the European grid via Spain, and in 2020, a second cable is planned with Portugal. Projects that, together with other power plants such as Noor Ouarzazate’s, could help make Morocco an essential supplier of clean energy in Europe.