• Morocco has unveiled a solar program, the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) that will shift the nation’s over dependence on energy imports to production, toward a sustainable and clean energy.

    The three-plant Noor-Ouarzazate CSP (NOORo), harnesses on the sun in the country to produce electricity day and night. Once completed, the plant will produce enough green energy for more than one million Moroccan households.

    “With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology,” said Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb. “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.”

    The program which was launched on Thursday by His Majesty Mohammed VI of Morocco, expects to realize over 500 megawatts installed capacity, with an aim of developing 2 gigawatts by 2020.

    Additionally, the plant will help in lowering carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year. This underlines the country’s willpower to reduce the overuse of fossil fuels, adopt more sustainable and cleaner energy.

    This is part of Morocco’s new 2010-2030 energy strategy which goal is to improve the country’s energy security of supply to sustainably reduce the kingdom’s dependence on the outside world and diversify production sources through the use of renewable energies by raising the share of these energies in the electricity mix up to 42% by 2020 compared to less than 15% currently.

    How does it work?

    The Noor-Ouarzazate CSP is equipped with half a million curved mirrors glittering in the desert sun. The mirrors placed in 800 rows tracks the sun’s movement collecting its warmth which is directed to steel tubes filled with a ‘heat transfer solution (HTF). The solution is heated together with water to produce steam to make electricity.

    At night the plant is able to produce electricity as it is fitted with thermal energy storage device which allows for solar energy to be stored as heated molten salt. A cylinder filled with salt is melted and heated to more than 500 degrees Celsius and has a storage capacity of 3 hours’ power for use at night or when the sun is not strong enough.

    In the planned Phase 2 (Noor 2 and 3 plants) due to launch in 2017 and 2018 will have the capacity to store energy for up to eight hours. This will ensure that the targeted area stays lit for 24 hours.

    Although CSP has potential to nudge Africa to attain universal access to energy for all Africans by 2025, the rather high technology costs when compared to fossil fuel alternatives dissuade investors. But the end results of CSP is far better and sustainable than fossil fuels, hence some organizations are willing to fund CSP.

    In Morocco for example, public and private funding helped in implementing Noor. The Moroccan government through its Agency for Solar Energy, secured over US $3 billion required for the Noor-Ouarzazate complex from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), European financing institutions and the World Bank.

    “This launch shows that the low-cost, long-term financing provided by the CIF can serve as the spark that attracts the public and private investments needed to build massive CSP production facilities at an attractive cost for countries interested in developing solar energy,” said Mafalda Duarte, Head of the Climate Investment Funds.

    Concentrated solar power is such a promising technology. According estimates by the International Energy Agency, up to 11% of the world’s electricity generation in 2050 could come from CSP. This is especially true in the Middle East and North Africa, a region with abundant solar resources and high hopes of eventually helping to meet the EU’s demand for energy.

    Trail-blazing projects on the African continent, like the Noor solar plant, are proving the performance of CSP. Moreover, the environmental benefits of CSP is vast. The plant also results in new, local jobs, and can lead to a high-performing sustainable energy economic sector for Morocco.

    Yacine Fal, AfDB Resident Representative in Morocco, said, “Noor solar complex is part of the innovative operations of AfDB in the energy sector in terms of financing and technology. It stands to serve as an example for Africa and the world about how to create effective pathways to greener and more inclusive economies through renewable energy.”

    Image Credit: Jon Jensen/CNN