Ouarzazate in Morocco is famous as a setting for big Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘The Mummy’, ‘Game of thrones’ and even ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, but today it has achieved world fame for another blockbuster – “NOOR”, the world’s largest CSP solar farm. Surprising as it may seem, Morocco has successfully built a colossal solar plant with a projected capability of an amazing 580 megawatts of power.
Commissioned in May 2013, Noor 1 is the first phase of the mega solar plant, which was inaugurated by Moroccan King Mohammed the VI. It went live earlier this month with the incredible capacity of generating power to a million homes. Its current capacity is 160MW of power.
1 Morocco’s mega solar power plant is constructed over 2500 hectares of desert
Ouarzazate, nicknamed the ‘door of the desert’, lies just on the edge of the great big Sahara. The mega solar plant is constructed over 2500 hectares of Sahara desert 10 km from the city in the Souss masa Draa area. It consists of four mega solar plants that have been interlinked to form one large unit. Morocco’s ambition is to become a global solar power with its mega plant providing solar electricity to more than 50% of the country by 2020
2 Just a few hours of energy received by the desert can power the world for a year
The desert has extreme potential for harnessing Solar Power. It is with this thought in mind that Morocco seems to look to the future for solar energy derived from using its desert. According to German particle Physicist Gerhard Knies, the energy received in a desert over a matter of hours can generate a year’s power to the entire world. That’s how powerful the desert is.
Built with the help of Spanish major TSK Acciona Sener, The Mega solar power plant is based on the concentrated solar power method without the use of photo voltaic cells. It will store energy in the form of molten salt heated at high temperatures. With Phase 1 completed, phase 2, 3 are expected to be completed and operational by 2017.
3 Morocco’s mega solar farm cost $ 9 billion. Visible even from space!
Once the four phases of this monster solar plant are completed, it will have reached project cost of $ 9 billion. At its peak it will have the capacity to generate 580 MW of power which can be stored for a period of 8 hours. The plant consists of 500,000 shimmering solar mirrors placed in symmetry of 800 rows. Each mirror is 12 feet in height. As they trace the sun across the sky, the mirrors glimmer and reflect light with so much power that the plant can also be seen from space.
Once completed the entire four phases will be equal to Rabat Morocco’s capital city in terms of size. Environmental minister Hakima el-Haite shared concerns over the burden on the Moroccan exchequer at the enormous amount of subsidized fossil fuels provided to the population. Morocco imparts 94% of its fossil fuels from various countries. Without its own resources, that costs a lot. The mega solar power plant is a boon for the Moroccan economy.
4 Morocco leading the race in global environment changes
With Morocco ‘s effort to make renewable energy account for 42% of its total power consumption, it has well and truly kept its pledge made at the milestone agreement for climate change held in Paris in December 2015 and involving 195 countries.
With such a bold initiative of having the world’s largest solar farm, Morocco steps into the future as a global solar power. Having developed state of the art solar technology, the rest of the world will look to Morocco as an example of commitment and mimic similar efforts in a bid to restore a suitable balance to the environment.