Solar Energy Production Progresses in Morocco

In support of Morocco’s ongoing efforts to develop its renewable energy resources and reduce its dependency on fossil fuels, the World Bank has approved the US$519 million phase two and phase three expansion of the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station (OSPS) which will provide up to 1.1 million Moroccans with a source of clean renewable energy by 2018. Located in the Ghessat rural council area of Souss-Massa-Drâa, around 10 km from the town of Ouarzazate, the OSPS covers an area of 2,500 hectares with phase one of the project, referred to as Noor 1 CSP (concentrated solar power), already under construction. The first phase of the project will supply 160 megawatts of energy, while phase two and three are set to provide 350 megawatts as well as the installation of solar thermal collectors and solar energy tower. It is anticipated that the plant will be operational in the second half of 2015.

Currently Morocco is the largest energy importer in the Middle East, relying on imported fossil fuels for more than 97 percent of its energy requirements. The Noor-Ouarzazate Solar Power Station will enable the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) to increase both its capacity and output. With up to 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, Morocco has one of the highest rates of solar radiation in the world and has great potential for harnessing the power of the sun. The public-private venture, MASEN, will be leading solar power projects in the country with the aim of providing up to 18 percent of the country’s annual electricity requirements by 2020.

Concentrated solar power makes use of mirrors or lenses to capture a large area of sunlight and concentrate it onto a small area. When the concentrated light is converted to heat, it drives an engine which is connected to an electrical power generator, thereby generating electricity. Spain is currently the world leader in CSP, and Spanish consortium TSK-Acciona-Sener is collaborating on the technology of the OSPS.

In addition to funding from the World Bank – $400 million of which will come from the Bank, with US$119 million from the Clean Technology Fund administered by the Bank – the project is supported by the African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, European Commission, Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufba, and l’Agence Française de Développement.