Today, the world is confronted with a dual-energy struggle: the first is the lack of stable and sustainable energy supplies. The latter is the environmental degradation caused by massive energy consumption and using primary renewable resources such as carbon fuels.

Due to rising power consumption, manufacturing industry expansion, and the hefty price tag of conventional fossil fuels, the world’s energy expansion has shifted to the renewable energy development domains.

You will witness a magnificent scene if you proceed east of Marrakech for a few hours on the N9 highway, going into the High Atlas Mountains and plunging into the Sahara Desert. A tower of luminance emerges from the desert bottom sixteen kilometers north of where the highway passes into Ouarzazate.

The Noor III Ouarzazate tower radiates so brilliantly that looking at it hurts your eyes. And, if you didn’t know what it was before, you could be unsure if what you see is real.

The Noor-Ouarzazate facility, which covers more than 3,000 hectares – the equivalent of 3,500 soccer fields generates adequate electricity to run a city the size of Prague or twice as big as Marrakesh. The entire installation, located at the entrance to the Sahara Desert, generates 580 megawatts, sparing the globe over 760,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.

Morocco became a sustainable energy superpower in 2018 and 2019, exporting 670 percent more electricity and reducing importation by 93.5 percent. This achievement can be linked to the country’s construction of the world’s largest concentrated solar farm. The Noor Complex solar facility has the capacity to power one million homes while drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels.

And this is not a piece of fantasy. Morocco’s Noor Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) plant is the world’s most extensive solar system ever constructed. More-than-6,000-acre complex located in the southern city of Ouarzazate demonstrates Morocco’s renewable energy goals.

Noor Solar Power in Morocco
Noor Solar Power in Morocco (source)

Noor is Morocco’s first CSP plant, and its 580-megawatt production is helping the government meet its goal of a 52 percent renewable energy combination by 2030. It also indicates a considerable increase in global CSP production, with only 4.8 gigawatts in 2016. This massive landscape of around 2 million mirrors converts sunlight into plenty of sustainable energy to power approximately 6% of the nation.

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How did it start?

Morocco aspires to be the Saudi Arabia of solar energy. Its centerpiece endeavor is a $9 billion, first-of-its-kind energy facility titled Noor, which means “light” in Arabic and is equivalent to the size of Paris.

Furthermore, it is possible to see Noor from the spacecraft since it is so large. It appears to be an ocean of brilliant reflectors from the sky, but as we approach Noor on the land, shades are required to protect us from the dazzling sunlight.

Morocco embarked on an ambitious energy plan in 2009, aiming for renewable energy to account for 42 percent of the total cumulative installed capacity by 2020. The strategy fueled significant solar and wind power growth over the next decade, with solar PV capacity expanding 16-fold and wind capacity reaching six-fold by 2020.

Twisted mirrors focus sunlight on heating cylinders of fluid pushed to a power system, unlike traditional solar panels that send electricity directly to the grid. The device stores the energy for future use, especially in the evening when demand is higher. The following are the goals of the Ouarzazate solar power station’s building projects:

  • Reducing Morocco’s energy vulnerability.
  • Eliminating negative impact on revenue and the overall economy due to fossil imports.
  • Increasing electricity generation by maximizing the utilization of sunlight as a renewable energy source.
  • Encouraging Morocco to develop a national solar energy economy.
  • Long-term reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Transform and utilize remote desert areas.

The Noor solar panels generate a buzzing sound as they wander to follow the sun, which beams in the Sahara for up to 3,600 hours a year, providing Morocco with one of the most potent levels of solar generation capacity on the planet.

And here’s how it works, thousands of mirror reflectors concentrate the sun’s light to warm a transference fluid, generating steam to power turbines that create electricity. The transference fluid helps heat liquefied minerals in huge on-site holding facilities.

And, even after the sun has set, the salt remains hot enough to produce steam. Solar thermal power has the privilege of conserving heat and using it to generate energy when the sun isn’t blazing.

I. Noor Ouarzazate I CSP plant 

The initial solar power plant features 480 hectares of Sener’s trough cylindrical parabolic reflectors with half a million 12-meter-high mirrors in 800 rows. The power facility has a total installed capacity of 160 MW, and the system can store electrical energy for up to three hours. Water cooling technology is used at the Noor Ouarzazate I CSP facility. As huge as it is, the facility’s construction took only 30 months. 

II. Noor Ouarzazate II CSP plant 

This plant is the second level of Morocco’s Ouarzazate solar power project, spanning 610 hectares. It has a capacity of 200 MW and employs CSP technology and parabolic reflectors, waterless air cooling, and saves 7-8 hours of electricity. Adopting an air-cooled condenser, which saves water use by around 80%, is a distinguishing characteristic of the Noor Ouarzazate II, making it especially significant in desert environments.

III. Noor Ouarzazate III CSP plant 

Noor Ouarzazate III is Morocco’s first air-cooled solar tower power facility. The complex is 582 hectares and has a 150 MW installed potential. 

IV. Noor Ouarzazate IV PV power plant

The Noor Ouarzazate IV power plant was completed in June 2018. It was the first time the new Noor PV I national initiative used hybrid photovoltaic technology. The facility is 137 hectares and has a 72 MW installed capacity.

Morocco is promoting itself as a clean and sustainable renewable energy powerhouse with the ability to trade renewable energy to Europe, with two electricity cables currently connecting the country to Spain. The nation is also ambitious for subsea connectivity to the United Kingdom.

In Morocco’s Guelmim-Oued Noun region, a 10.5 GW solar and wind project will be erected, and it will send sustainable energy to the UK via undersea transmission lines. The planet’s longest subsea connectors will be 1.8 GW high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission cables.

What good has the breathtaking project served to Morocco?

Climate information system under development
Climate information system under development | Image Credit – Afrik 21

When considering sustainable power, the beneficial ecological impact is frequently accessed. Morocco has invested significantly in tackling climate change and the worldwide environmental issue. Morocco is adopting the Green Generation 2020-2030 plan to help local farmers preserve water and energy while growing crops more sustainably.

Morocco is drafting an ecological policy to decrease emissions and aim toward a greener civilization, in contrast to its shift toward solar energy. Poverty and deprivation in Morocco have significantly reduced in recent years. While this is a positive action ahead for the country, the decrease in poverty was unevenly distributed between rural and urban locations.

The difficulties in providing energy to remote regions are sometimes blamed for the inequality between living places. The expectation is that solar energy’s effectiveness in Morocco will make it possible to distribute power to citizens beyond the metropolis.

Morocco’s destitution rate dropped from 45 percent in 2014 to 23 percent in 2016. As solar energy grows more productive in Morocco, the typical homeowner’s living standards should typically enhance as solar power makes electricity cheaper and more accessible. Solar farms are sprouting nationwide, providing people with employment that pays a livable wage.

To Conclude

Morocco has established a reputation as a climate champion. Sustainable energy accounts for about two-fifths of the nation’s electricity generation capacity. Some fossil fuel subsidies have been tapered out. The country is home to some of the earth’s largest clean and renewable energy projects. The government has garnered a lot of recognition for reducing carbon emissions.

Although the international reputation is well-deserved, it still confronts significant problems since its location in a thermal hotspot makes it particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change. Even as it works to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, its energy consumption is rapidly increasing.

Despite these obstacles, Morocco has enormous natural potential for solar, wind, and hydropower generation and has taken significant measures to achieve this opportunity. Morocco’s state climate change action goes back to the mid-2000s when the government decided to become a regional superpower in green technology and accelerate massive renewables projects.

The country is establishing a model for other African countries to follow in becoming self-sufficient and gaining economic footing. Morocco has spent 85 percent of its foreign cash in other African countries to strengthen its leadership role while also helping the continent’s faltering economies.

King Mohammed VI, the current Moroccan King, believes in Africa’s potential and aspires to lead it to prosperity. Thanks to him, Morocco is now the second-greatest investor in African affairs. Conversely, countries such as Ghana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and South Africa are invested in solar power projects that create greener energy than coal and oil, boost energy stability, and give dependable heat and light to their civilians.

Morocco’s shift to solar energy is not only raising inhabitants’ life quality and giving the state political clout but also decreasing the detrimental impacts of fossil fuels on the environment. Morocco, despite its difficulties, is moving forward and pulling the African continent along. Morocco is helping alleviate poverty by building more solar resources and spreading its impact to other African countries.

(Last Updated on November 4, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!