In about a month, Morocco will inaugurate the first part of the Ouarzazate solar power plant. The project, dubbed Noor 1, will have 500,000 crescent-shaped solar mirrors spread across the desert, which will capture solar energy to power the country. Each mirror is 12 meters in height and transfers the received heat to a steel pipeline filled with a synthetic ‘heat transfer solution’ (HTF). This solution heats up to 393ºC and is then mixed into water to create steam, which generates power.
The next phases, Noor 2 and Noor 3, are estimated to open in 2017, and a fourth phase of the project should be finished by 2020. When these four phases are completed, the power plant should generate about 580 megawatts of power, enough to power 1 million homes, and the panels will cover an area of the Sahara desert larger than the country’s capital, Rabat. The US$9 billion project aims to help the country to decrease its energy dependence on other countries.
“We are not an oil producer. We import 94% of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget,” Morocco’s environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, told the Guardian. “We also used to subsidize fossil fuels which have a heavy cost, so when we heard about the potential of solar energy, we thought; why not?”
he panels installed in the desert were designed to resist sandstorms, which are very common in the area. They are also more expensive than photovoltaic cells more commonly used because they can continue to produce power even after the sun goes down.
With the investments made in wind and hydroelectric power, added to what will be produced by the Ouarzazate plant, the country expects to produce half its electricity consumption by 2020, and in the future even export its surplus energy to neighboring countries and to Europe.
Source: The Guardian