Harnessing the Power of the Sun in Morocco
In mid-2010, Africa’s largest wind farm was inaugurated in Northern Morocco by King Mohammed VI. Located around 34 kilometers from Tangiers, in Melloussa, the wind farm was the beginning phase of a larger plan to harness the power of the sun and wind as a renewable, environment-friendly source of power. Stretching over a distance of 42 km, 165 wind turbines, together with a smaller wind farm that has been running for some time, will have the capacity to provide energy that would translate into a saving of up to 126,000 metric tons of oil per year, making a significant contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions in Morocco.
In November 2012 it was reported that the European Investment Bank, along with other investors, have made a commitment to provide financing for up to half the cost of the development of a huge solar complex in Ouarzazate. Agreements have been signed with MASEN – Morocco’s public-private solar energy agency – for the first phase of the project. Morocco has plans to become a substantial renewable energy producer, with the aim of exporting renewable energy to European countries, with nearby Spain having expressed an interest in obtaining its energy from Morocco.
Other organizations involved in the Moroccan solar power project include the World Bank and the African Development Bank. A Saudi-based consortium has been appointed to construct the first phase of the solar power plant at an estimated cost of close to $1 billion, which is set to be completed toward the end of 2014. The initial phase will have the capacity to generate 160-megawatts of power, with a second phase to bring capacity up to 500 megawatts planned for completion by 2020.
In a country with an abundance of sunshine – up to 3,000 hours per year – it makes sense to tap into the sun’s energy as a source of power, particularly with ongoing advances in solar energy technology making this a very viable proposition. The long-term goal is to have five solar power plants generating 2,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020, which would supply roughly 20 percent of Morocco’s electricity needs.