The city of Ouarzazate will host the world’s largest solar power plant. This mega complex, as large as the capital Rabat (117km2), should be completed in 2020 and supply almost half of Morocco’s electricity.

The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is known for hosting major film productions. “Ouallywood”, as it is nicknamed, notably allowed the filming of The Mummy, Gladiator, or The New Adventures of Aladin. Now, the city at the gates of the desert is at the center of another type of blockbuster: the construction of four gigantic solar power stations, which should supply almost half of Morocco’s electricity from 2020. When the project is completed , this hydroelectric and wind complex will become the largest source of concentrated solar energy in the world, according to the “Guardian”.

For the moment, the project is in its first phase: Noor 1. It includes the installation of 500,000 parabolic mirrors arranged on 800 lines. These 12-meter-high glass panels follow the movement of the sun in order to capture and concentrate radiation throughout the daily solar cycle (their temperature rises to 393 ° C). If this technology is less widespread and more expensive than conventional photovoltaic panels, it has the advantage of continuing to produce energy even after sunset. Completion of this phase next month could provide Moroccans with 160 MW of production capacity. Ultimately, when the engineers have completed the four factories, the mega-power plant will be able to produce 580MW per year, enough to power a million homes.


The parabolic mirrors of the Noor 1 power plant. © REUTERS / Nir Elias
Morocco’s environment minister Hakima el-Haite believes that producing solar energy could have the same economic impact on the region as oil production, which ended in the last century. However, the $ 9 billion ($ 8.2 billion) it has spent to make its desert a primary source of energy is expected to be more immediate. “We are no longer an oil producer. We import 94% of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and this has serious consequences for our budget, “she told the Guardian before adding:” We are very proud of this project . I think it will be the largest solar power plant in the world. ”


But even as the first phase of the project draws to a close, Morocco is already eyeing its international ambitions. “We are already involved in high-voltage transmission line plans to initially cover southern Morocco and Mauritania,” said Ahmed Baroudi, the director of the Société d’Investissements Energétiques (SEIM), the national renewable energy investment firm. However, he explains to the daily that the final impact of the project could be much wider, “even as far as the Middle East”.

In the meantime, Morocco is focusing on using solar energy to be self-sufficient in resources. This could one day include desalination of water in a country that is increasingly affected by drought. “We are at the forefront of solar energy,” he added.

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