Going Solar - Morocco to Save 2.5m Tons of Fossil Fuel

Morocco’s solar energy plans are well-underway as investments are sought.
Published: Sat 06 Oct 2012

What happened

Morocco’s government is seeking investments to build five new solar plants in the country over the next eight years, writes Clean Technica. Morocco’s Deputy Energy Minister Mohammed Zniber says he is confident that the solar project, costing approximately US$9bn, will attract investors.

Background

Morocco currently has only one solar plant, located in Ain Beni Mathar, east of Morocco. The hybrid plant, using both gas and solar, has an installed capacity of 20MW. The government wants to increase this figure to 2000MW by building five new solar plants in the country’s southern desert regions. These plants will operate using the sun only.  

The first hybrid plant will be built near the desert town, Ouarzazate and will generate 500MW. Obaid Amrane, from the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) describes the plant as the “biggest project of its kind in the world.” The plant, covering approximately 3,000 hectares, will be built in two phases and will be completed by 2015. The World Bank has already contributed US$297m towards the project. Clean Technica reports that this site alone will cut 240,000 tons of CO2 production each year from fossil fuel-based energy.

Ouarzazate is the first project to be carried out under the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region’s Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) program. The program aims to deploy about 1GW of generation capacity through CSP plants and associated transmission infrastructure, involving Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan. The program aims to improve local energy access, economic growth and regional integration.  Through these projects, the region will eventually be able to export power to Europe. [Read: Tunisia electrifies Italy]

Unlike its neighbors, Morocco does not have access to hydrocarbons and is therefore dependent on costly fuel and power imports.  The country relies heavily on Spain to provide its surplus electricity. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), the country’s power supply is dependent on 95% oil.

Since the country enjoys an abundance of wind and solar resources, the government is keen to harness these and position itself as a world-class producer of renewable energy. The country enjoys 3000 hours of sunshine a year with a radience of around 55 KWh/ft²/day. Solar and wind power alone could see the country save 2.5m tons of fossil fuel oil.

By 2020, the government aims to make renewable energy account for 42% of its power supply, with solar making up 14% of this. A surge in the country’s power demand is the government’s motivation to develop its renewable energy sources, explains Phys Org. By 2020, the demand is expected to double and by 2030, the figure may quadruple. 

Hela Cheikhrouhou, Director of the AfDB’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department, points out:  “Morocco has emerged as an early leader in developing low carbon, sustainable energy on a large scale, and we are proud to support their drive. Lessons learned from these projects will inform efforts going forward in the country, region and around the world.”

The Final Word

Africa and the Middle East have the potential to be the world’s powerhouse as these regions are home to rich renewable energy resources. With the right governmental and financial backing, this aim can become a reality as many countries worldwide are turning to low emission sources to meet carbon targets and ensure energy security as fossil fuel reserves run low.

Sources

African Development Bank Group- AfDB Approves US $800 Million in Loans to Advance Morocco’s Wind and Solar Ambitions

African Development Bank Group-Ouarzazate Solar Power Station Project [pdf]

Clean Technica-Morocco Envisions 14% of Power from Sun by 2020

Clean Technica-500-MW Solar Plant to Be Built in Morocco

PhysOrg-Morocco sees 12%of power from sun by 2020