The Noor Solar Project is expected to be completed in 2020 and have a capacity of 580 MW, which may be enough to power one million homes in Morocco. Eventually, wind and hydro power is scheduled to be added, raising the electricity output for the entire plant to the level that it might power about half of the whole country.
The first phase of the solar project will be launched in November and produce up to 160 MW. The technology utilized by the solar part of the project is concentrating solar: a material is heated that can store heat for several hours when there is no sunlight. Steam can be generated to turn turbines which produce electricity without the presence of the sun.
“We are not an oil producer. We import 94 percent of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget. We also used to subsidise fossil fuels which have a heavy cost, so when we heard about the potential of solar energy, we thought; why not?” explained Dr. Hakima el-Haite, Minister Delegate in Charge of Environment of the Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment of Morocco.
The 160 MW phase, Noor 1, covers 6,178 acres of land, with 500,000 solar mirrors. That’s a lot of desert, and the remaining phases will require even more, but it is arid, mostly barren land. As long as environmental assessments have correctly determined which desert species are not to be disturbed, and planning has taken them into consideration, there shouldn’t be any problems.
The total project cost is about $9 billion, which may sound like a huge price tag. At the same time, when it is completed — which is supposed to be by 2020 — millions of Moroccans will most likely have electricity from clean, renewable sources. These CSP plants can produce electricity for decades – one plant in America has been operating for 30 years, and it might be able to keep going for another 30.
So, how much would Morocco spend on imported fuels in 30 years? When the full capacity of the Noor solar project is online and it has provided electricity to about half of a whole country, how much will Morocco not have to spend on imported fossil fuels?
Another aspect of the news is that building such a huge plant at home is obviously going to provide jobs to people within Morocco, so the project will be supportive of the domestic economy.