Sunny Morocco Steaming Ahead in Solar Department

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May 4, 2018

Morocco is one of a growing number of nations building a growing number of solar farms.

The first farm, near the city Ouarzazate, began operating in 2016, generating enough electricity to power 650,000 homes. The country's target is for that plant to power 1 million homes by 2020. The massive plant is already the size of Paris and has been designed to minimize damage from desert winds. Ouarzazate is a town on the western edge of the Sahara Desert, in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains.

Morocco has a long history of importing nearly all of its energy needs. The solar plant, named Noor (Arabic for "light"), harnesses one of the desert country's most prevalent assets: sunlight. The country says that the Sun shines in the Moroccan desert for up to 3,600 hours a year.

Morocco solar plant

The first two phases of the plant, Noor 1 and Noor 2, now generate 160 megawatts of solar energy; already, the country has cut its carbon emissions by hundreds of thousands of tons a year, the government says. To get to that 1-million-home target by 2020, the government plans to expand Noor enough to produce 580 megawatts. Noor is not the only solar plant in the country; it's just the biggest one.

Upgrades to the plant will also take use of cutting-edge technology to cut out the synthetic oil normally needed to create water vapor that powers the turbine-powered generator. Replacing the fossil fuel will be a system of heat generation from molten salts stored inside a single large tower, to sport 7,000 mirrors and be dubbed Noor 3. Its expected height is 246 meters (807 feet); that would make it the tallest building Africa.

Morroco joins other African countries Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Rwanda, and South Africa –not to mention the nearby Kingdom of Saudi Arabia–in joining the drive toward greater use of solar energy and other renewable resources.

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