Morocco set to launch the world’s largest solar farm

Friday 18/12/2015
Solar mirrors at the Noor 1 concentrated solar power plant, outside the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate.

Casablanca - Morocco is to launch its first solar power plant by the end of December as part of a massive clean en­ergy programme aimed at reducing energy imports.
The $9 billion Noor project, 20km from Ouarzazate, is expected to produce 580 megawatts (MW) once all phases are complete, supplying electricity to 1 million homes.
Launched by King Mohammed VI in 2013, the first phase will gen­erate 160 MW. Noor 2 and Noor 3, which are to be operational in 2016 and 2017, respectively, will each generate 160 MW. Noor 4 is de­signed to produce 70 MW through photovoltaic technology.
The project, which will be the world’s largest solar energy farm, has put the North African country on the world map for clean energy. It is part of the country’s energy strategy to meet 42% of its total power needs by 2020 through re­newable energy and reduce its heavy dependency on fuel energy by 20%.
Morocco is the biggest energy importer in the Middle East and North Africa. Record high global prices in 2014 had a negative effect on the country’s investments in sectors such as health and educa­tion.
The country imports almost 95% of its energy needs. This could be reduced to 75% by 2020 thanks to the energy generated by solar, wind and hydroelectric power.
Speaking at the ministerial meet­ing of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Moroccan Energy Minister, Abdelkader Amara said that investment of $35 billion was needed for the electricity sector and renewable energy projects.
“Morocco has initiated the implementation of major pro­grammes in renewable energy be­tween 2015 and 2025, with the aim to achieve an additional capacity of 6,760 MW… 3,120 MW is solar, 2,740 MW is wind and 900 MW is hydroelectric,” Amara said.
The Noor plant is expected to help Morocco reduce carbon diox­ide emissions by 240,000 tonnes per year initially and by 522,000 tonnes when phases two and three are in operation, the Energy Minis­try said.
Morocco seeks to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 32% by 2030. It has also decided to abolish the production of plastic bags from July 1, 2016.
Morocco started producing elec­tricity at Africa’s largest wind farm in its south-western coastal region of Tarfaya in 2014.
“Things have been going well so far. We will probably go beyond 2,000 MW by 2020 in the area of wind power,” said Amara.
Morocco is to host the upcom­ing UN Conference of Parties to the Convention on Climate Change (COP22) next year.
“Marrakech COP22 will be an edi­tion of innovation in adaptation to and mitigation of climate change effects,” said Morocco’s Minister Delegate for Environment Hakima El Haite at a plenary session of COP21 in Paris.