Solar Tribune

Morocco To Open Giant Solar Thermal Plant


Morocco does not share the oil wealth of its neighboring countries, but it still has plans to compete in the world energy market. According to The Moroccan Agency of Solar Energy, one of the worlds largest solar thermal plants is on track to open in 2015. Mr. Mustapha Elbakoury, a spokesman for the agency, told Morocco World News, “According to the program, the progress made by the workshop Basin of Ouarzazate will allow the station, ‘NOOR 1’ to enter into action next year [2015].”



Although neighboring Algiers and Libya rank number 15 and 27 in world oil production, Morocco sits at number 96. Despite its lack of resources, it is one of the sunniest places on earth, with over 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, and up to 3600 in the desert regions. By comparison, Yuma, Arizona, which is nicknamed “the sunniest place on earth,” averages 4,000 hours.

NOOR 1, the first of the solar thermal plants, will generate 160 megawatts of electricity. It is part of the larger Ouarzazate project which will utilize both photovoltaic panels (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) thermal generators. It is the first installation in what is excepted to grow to 2,000 MW of solar generation by 2020. NOOR 2 and NOOR 3 are slated to begin construction in 2015 as well.

Morocco’s “ace in the hole” is the fact that it is the only African nation that is connected to the European electrical grid. This link to the European grid will give Morocco access to a 400 billion Euro market for electricity. However, if the Moroccan project proves successful, we can expect to see a large jump in CSP plants sprouting up across North Africa and the Middle East, where fast-growing economies demand more and more electricity.

CSP technology currently boasts a worldwide installed capacity of 1095 MW, and is the most widely deployed solar technology behind PV, Which has grown to a whopping 139 gigawatts. CSP is particularly popular in the Mediterranean region, with major developments in Spain totaling over 600 MW. CSP plants have also been developed in the american Southwest, but developments have stalled due to low PV panel prices.

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