A giant Moroccan solar plant using energy from the sun will open next month and be capable of powering a Moroccan city at night.
The solar thermal plant will harness the sun’s warmth to melt salt, which will hold its heat to power a steam turbine in the evening. The first phase will generate for 3 hours after dark but the aim is to eventually provide 20 hours of energy a day.
It is part of Morocco’s pledge to get 42% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. A pledge that has been praised by the UN for it’s ambition.
The Saudi-built Ouarzazate solar thermal plant will be one of the world’s biggest when it is complete. The mirrors will cover the same area as the country’s capital, Rabat. The complex stands on the edge of a gritty, flat, rust-red desert, with the snow-clad Atlas mountains towering to the North.
Despite the huge costs of building the solar plant (an estimated $9 billion USD), Morocco’s Environment Minister Hakima el-Haite is confident the project will save more money in terms of subsidies for fossil fuels.
The country has been 98% dependent on imported fossil fuels it imports from Spain. But engineers hope that will not last long as Morocco’s king Mohammed VI has been persuaded of the vast capacity of the scorching Saharan sun.
Morocco’s previously useless slice of the Sahara is proving a blessing for solar power. Solar thermal technology only works in hot sunny countries. The price is falling, and its growing capacity to store energy is arousing interest.
The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is falling much faster but the International Energy Agency expects them both to play a part in an energy revolution which is likely to see solar as the dominant source of electricity globally by 2050.
The solar thermal plant at Ouarzazate will harness the Sun’s warmth to melt salt, which will eventually generate energy 20 hour per day.