Morocco’s King opens world’s largest concentrating solar power plant

King Mohammed VI opens what will become the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world when completed. Three projects that, combined with the photovoltaic phase (Noor IV), will make Noor Ouarzazate, Morocco, world’s largest multi-technology solar production site.

3,500 football fields. Electricity for one million houses. 240,000 tons of CO2 saved yearly. 9 billion dollar investments. These are the figures of the largest solar plant in the world just opened in the Sahara desert, Morocco. It’s called Noor I (“noor” in Arabic means “light”) and is located in Ouarzazate, an ancient hub of caravan travellers. Next to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and Minister Hakima El Haite, there was also Ségolène Royal, his French counterpart.


Ouarzazate morocco's king segolene royal
In Ouarzazate, an ancient hub of caravan travellers, next to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and Minister Hakima El Haite, there’s Ségolène Royal.


The works for this first plant that will be fuelled by 3 thousand hours of sunshine a year already started in the spring of 2013.


In Ghessate (in the province of Ouarzazate), the opening ceremony of the first plant of the solar complex “Noor-Ouarzazate”, called “Noor I” coincided with the starting of the construction works of the second and third plants of this mega-project (Noor II and Noor III). Ouarzazate is a Moroccan city on the western part of the Sahara desert, in front of the Atlas Mountains.

The ceremony was held in the presence of the head of government, presidents of the Parliament chambers, king’s counselors, members of the government, State representatives and international institutions that have financially supported the project and the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Morocco.


Who financed Ouarzazate’s solar thermal power plant and how it works

When completed, it will be as big as Morocco’s capital. It is mostly financed by a consortium of Saudi investors, but also Spanish investors with the African Development Bank, Climate Investment Funds and different European financial institutions. The overall investment is of 3.9 billion dollars. 1 billion from the German bank KfW, 596 million dollars from the European Investment Bank, 400 million dollars by the World Bank.


Noor I TSK-Acciona-Sener
The construction of Noor I, led by the Spanish consortium TSK-Acciona-Sener, involved 32% of local companies.


The construction of Noor I is led by the Spanish consortium TSK-Acciona-Sener. Moroccan businesses supported the project by guaranteeing the services related to the building, engineering, installation and logistics. The system uses parabolic mirrors that turn toward the sun to receive its heat, which is necessary to melt the salts contained in the plant circuit. The heated salt drives the steam turbines that generate electricity even during the night.


The solar thermal plant is made of 500,000 parabolic concentrators arranged in 800 rows (covering 2,500 hectares). They’re arranged this way specifically to lessen damages caused by sandstorms and desert winds. The plant is a second generation one thanks to the use of the molten salts technology that improves the plant’s storage capability and the energy performance. The Noor I plant has 3 hours of energy storage capability.


In this occasion, the president of the MASEN (Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy), Mustapha Bakkoury, unveiled the progresses of the Moroccan solar plan, the key stages and perspectives of the development of the Ouarzazate concentrating solar power plant. “By contributing to the diversification of national energy sources – Bakkoury explained – the Noor I plant, whose works started on 10 May 2013, reinforces the will to optimise the exploitation of Morocco’s natural resources, to preserve its environment and sustain its economic and social development to build a better future to next generations”.


The Noor I project will also contribute to support the region’s economic and cultural development, the opening of many nearby villages and to the creation of new tourism products, according to authorities.


The stages of the building of the solar plant

It took 30 months and more than 2,000 workers to build the Noor I plant. It stretches on a surface of about 480 hectares and it uses the thermal solar technology and cylindrical parabolic concentrators and it has 3 hours of energy storage capability. The project encouraged investments of 7 billion dirhams.



solar thermal plant morocco
The solar thermal plant is made of 500,000 parabolic concentrators arranged in 800 rows (covering 2,500 hectares). Once completed it will be as big as Morocco’s capital Rabat.


The second and third plant of the Noor Ouarzazate concentrating plant (Noor II and Noor III) will have a power of 200 MW and a storage capability of 7 hours minimum; the Noor II plant (810 million euros) will use the solar thermal technology and cylindrical parabolic concentrators and will stretch on a surface of 680 hectares. With 645 million euros investments, Noor III will have a power of 150 MW and a storage capability of 8 hours.


The three projects together with a last photovoltaic phase (Noor IV) will make Noor Ouarzazate world’s largest multi-technology solar production site with a power of 580 MW and overall investments of 24 billion dirhams, as well as shared infrastructures constructed by MASEN and ONEE for logistic reasons.


Morocco will have five more solar plants for the production of renewable energy by 2020

This is just the first phase of an ambitious plan that includes the installation of 580 MW by 2020 through the solar thermal projects Noor II (200 MW) and Noor III (150 MW), as well as a photovoltaic project Noor 4. Together with the Ouarzazate plants, MASEN launched the Noor Midelt project on 1 January for the construction of another 400 MW of thermodynamic and photovoltaic systems. According to the ambitious project launched in 200 by the government the entire solar plant network will have a minimum capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020.

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