Morocco is now en-route to becoming the world’s leading supplier of solar energy, thanks to The Noor Solar Project, a mega solar plant being built just outside Ouarzazate, Morocco’s “door to the desert.”
The project is entering its first phase, Noor 1, next month. Over 500,000 solar mirrors will be line the desert’s horizon, tracking the scorching Saharan sun as it moves across the sky. By 2020, it has been estimated that the plant will provide over half of Morocco’s energy.
The technology being used here is particularly exciting because it allows the energy collected to be stored past sunset.
The solar plant will consist of parabolic mirrors that will stand 12 metres high, reflecting the sun’s rays onto a steel pipeline carrying a heat transfer solution. This solution can be warmed up to 393C and will snake its way into a heat tank that, by the time the project is complete, will be able to store thermal energy for up to 8 hours after sunset – a reality as of yet unheard of.
The solution can then be used later mixed with water to create steam that will turn the energy-generating turbines. Up to one million homes will be powered as a result of this plant by 2020.
Morocco’s environment minister Hakima el-Haite says, “We are very proud of this project. I think it’s the most important solar plant in the world.”
At $9 million however, the project doesn’t come cheap. But it is a worthwhile investment when the idea that in conjunction with wind and hydro energy, the plant could completely remove Morocco’s need for fossil fuels.
El-Haite told The Guardian that Morocco import 94 percent of their energy as fossil fuels from abroad, saying that it has “big consequences for our state budget.” Not only is solar energy a lot cheaper, it’s great for the environment too. A win win scenario for Morocco.
When all four phases of Noor are complete, the plant will take up an area bigger than Rabat, Morocco’s capital city. The first phase alone will cover a staggering 6,178 acres of land.
Ouarzazate’s desert, previously known for its appearances in Game of Thrones, The Mummy and Lawrence of Arabia, is now about to become recognised for something much greater, far beyond the film industry.
We’ll be watching closely as Morocco break new ground in showing what is possible in renewable energy.