The first phase of what is about to become the world’s biggest concentrated solar power plant is about to be completed in Morocco. Located in the city of Ouarzazate, also known as the “door of the desert”, the massive Noor solar power plant is going to tap into the most powerful of all solar resources- that of the Sahara desert.
Next month, the so-called Noor 1, phase one of the enormous solar plant, is about to begin operation. It uses mirror technology, with a total of 500,000 crescent-shaped solar mirrors, aligned in 800 rows, which will allow power generation even after sunset.
Each mirror is 12 meters high, and it is focused on a pipeline made of steel, which carries ‘heat transfer solution’. This solution is made of synthetic thermal oil, which can be warmed up to 393 degrees C. The hot solution is pumped towards a heat tank containing molten sand, where the energy can be stored for up to three hours. According to the technicians, Noor 2 and 3, which are supposed to begin operation in 2017, will be able to store energy for up to eight hours.
The capacity of Noor 1 is 160 MW, which is about a third of the total capacity of the mega solar plant, which is expected to generate the whooping 580 MW of electricity in just five years from now. This amount translates into the energy needs of half of the country.
In 2020, when the project is set to be completed, the Noor solar complex will consist of four massive interconnected plants, along with hydro and wind power generators. The huge plant will be spread across an area within the Sahara desert, which equals in size the country’s capital city of Rabat.
The aim that the environmental minister, Hakima el-Haite, has set for himself, is to put an end to the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels. Currently, 94% of the country’s energy generation comes from imported fossil fuels, which puts a huge pressure on the country’s budget.
el-Haite believes that the mega-plant will produce sufficient about of energy, which can not only be used internally, but also exported through new interconnectors to Europe. He hopes to bring the country to resource independence, and has made huge plans, including a construction of water desalination plants. The goals that the current government has set are known to formulate the most advanced renewable energy programme in the Middle East and North Africa.
Image (c) Graeme Robertson/the Guardian