Morocco is now home to the world’s largest concentrated solar farm – the Noor-Ouarzazate complex. It will soon start generating electricity. Concentrated solar power provides reliable power even when the sun is not shining. The country is aiming to become a world leader in renewable energy, and they are well on their way.
Their energy targets are said to be some of the most ambitious in the world and this complex will surely help them reach the mark. The complex has already helped them get to the point that 35% of their power will be coming from renewables. With a natural energy power plant the size of 3,500 football fields, they’d better be able to accomplish their goal.
Although, the reality now is that imported fossil fuels currently provide for 97% of Morocco’s energy needs, according to World Bank. Which is why the country is so keen to diversify and start using renewable energy. They want for 42% of their power to come from renewable sources by 2020.
“Morocco is an emergent country. Electricity demand has doubled since 2010 and by 2030 we want Morocco to be one of the first countries in the world for renewables to exceed share of fossil energy.”
The Noor-Ouarzazate complex is built on an area of more than 3,000 hectares (7413 acres) situated at the gateway to the Sahara Desert. It produces enough electricity to power a city the size of Prague, or one twice the size of Marrakesh. When fully operational, it will produce enough energy for more than one million Moroccans.
The whole complex provides 580 megawatts. That’s enough clean electricity to save the planet from over 760,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. Furthermore, the plant is expected to reduce Morocco’s fossil fuel dependence by two and a half million tons of oil.
Concentrated solar power (CSP), when combined with thermal storage, holds vast potential because of its ability to provide reliable power even when the sun is not shining. This system differs from conventional solar panels which deliver energy directly to the grid. Instead, it consists of curved mirrors that concentrate radiation to heat tubes of fluid which are pumped to a power unit.
This is how it works:
- Hundreds of mirrors focus the sun’s energy to heat a transfer fluid.
- The transfer fluid is used to produce steam.
- The steam drives turbines that generate electricity.
- The transfer fluid also heats a cylinder full of molten salts.
- The salt melts and stays hot enough to generate steam even after the sun has gone down.
- This unit holds the energy for use at a later time — specifically at night when demand is greater.
The complex is a perfect idea. It only makes sense for Morocco to be harnessing energy from its abundant sunshine source. This will free them from the volatility of import costs, along with creating the potential for green energy exports to neighboring countries. This project fully underlines the country’s determination to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and move towards a low-carbon development strategy.