Power to 1 million houses 3,500 football fields, 2,500 acres, 9 billion dollar investments; these are the figures of the world’s largest solar plant. Three projects that, combined with the photovoltaic phase (Noor IV), will make Noor Ouarzazate, Morocco, worlds largest solar plant. Just opened in the Sahara desert, Morocco, it is called Noor I (“Noor” in Arabic means “light Three projects that, combined with the photovoltaic phase (Noor IV), will make Noor Ouarzazate, Morocco, worlds largest solar plant.
Financing The 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 involves Spanish investors with the African Development Bank, Climate Investment Funds and different European financial institutions. The overall investment is of $3.9 billion-1 billion from the German bank KfW, $596 million from the European Investment Bank, $400 million by the World Bank.
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.
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 Building Stage
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.
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) 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.
Five More Plants 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.
This makes me wonder, is Nigeria serious about solving its power problems? Is the government ready to invest in similar projects of this magnitude?