Moroccan Solar Plant to Bring Energy to 1 Million People

Moroccan Solar Plant to Bring Energy to 1 Million People

BBC NEWS AT BBC.CO.UK/NEWS

Morocco has launched the Noor 1 Ouarzazate solar thermal plant, the most ambitious project yet from a country determined to be a leader in clean energy. The giant plant will harness the sun’s energy to melt salt, which will hold its heat to power a steam turbine in the evenings.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI unveiled the Saudi-built plant — one of the world’s biggest — on February 4, 2016, The Associated Press reported.

The mirrors will cover a space as large as the country’s capital, Rabat. The first phase will generate for three hours after dark. The last stage aims to supply power 20 hours a day. Developers say phase one will bring energy to a million people.

The next three phases of the project, which are scheduled to start coming online in 2016, will make Noor the “largest solar power production facility in the world,” developers told Agence France-Presse. It will cover 30 square kilometers.

The project is part of Morocco’s pledge to get 42 percent of its electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020.

The complex sprang from the king’s vision to turn his country into a renewable energy powerhouse. The country has been 98 percent dependent on imported fossil fuels, but the king believed in the viability of the vast capacity of Atlantic wind, mountain hydro power and scorching Saharan sun.

Morocco has pledged to decrease carbon dioxide emissions 32 percent below business as usual by 2030, conditional on aid to reach the renewables target. Currently Morocco imports electricity from Spain, but engineers hope that will not last long.

Morocco’s previously barren slice of the Sahara is proving useful for generating solar power. Solar thermal technology only works in hot, sunny countries. The price is falling, and its growing capacity to store energy is arousing interest.

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