Morocco’s First Solar Power Plant Is Here, And It’s Massive

If there are two things for which Morocco is known to those who have never been, its awesome food and a great big desert. The African country is located at the northwestern corner of the Sahara, and good for them, their doing something great with all that sunshine. The Noor I power plant is a project designed to bring renewable energy to the homes of over a million Moroccans. Not only does it bring green energy to many people, but it also makes Morocco a more autonomous country in terms of energy resources.

NPR reports that Noor I is capable of generating 160 megawatts of a power while covering thousands of sun-baked acres. This makes it the worlds largest solar power plants. And if you’re wondering how necessary this was for Morocco, just look at the fact that they have been relying on imported resources for over 97 percent of their energy consumption. Carbon emissions are expected to be reduced 760,000 tons per year. While it may not eliminate the country’s dependence immediately or even entirely, attaining this kind of independence from foreign imports will have huge economic value.

King Muhammed VI paid a visit to the town of Ouarzazate, near the location of Noor I, to inaugurate the plant on Thursday, reports Morocco World News. Many praise the construction of the solar plant for what it represents economically for Morocco. But for the international community, it is a symbol of the power of renewable energy.

But the plant isn’t finished yet. Construction began in 2013 and is expected to continue until 2018 when it will produce 500 megawatts of energy.

Minister Delegate in Charge of Environment, Hakima El Haiti, explained the impressive abilities of the plant in a statement about how the panels use “mirrors to focus the sun’s light and heat up a liquid, which is mixed with water and reaches a temperature close to 400 degrees Celsius… This produces steam, which in turn drives a turbine to generate electrical power.”

The plant is capable of storing this energy for days at a time. That way, if the weather is cloudy for a long period of time, the energy stored should be more than enough power to last. This shouldn’t be a problem considering the fact that Morocco only receives about 346 millimeters of precipitation per year according to the World Bank. Any notion that people will be reading by candlelight should there be a rainy day will be short-lived.

The Noor I power plant can even be seen from space. As NASA’s Kathryn Hansen puts it,

“The system at Ouarzazate uses 12-meter-tall [39-foot-tall] parabolic mirrors to focus energy onto a fluid-filled pipeline. The pipeline’s hot fluid — 393 degrees Celsius (739 degrees Fahrenheit) — is the heat source used to warm the water and make steam. The plant doesn’t stop delivering energy at nighttime or when clouds obscure the sun; heat from the fluid can be stored in a tank of molten salts.”

The project received grants from the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which operates in 72 countries worldwide to see that renewable, environmentally friendly energy methods are realized in developing counties. For nations such as Morocco, the first step towards growing infrastructure may be the most progressive step. Many countries with access to these funds are leading the world in renewable energy and climate resilience.

Perhaps the best step toward a better infrastructure is to start with limited to very poor infrastructure.

The power plant, already visible from space, is only going to get bigger. Noor II and Noor III are already in the works and will certainly leave their mark upon the world.

[Photo by Abdeljalil Bounhar/AP Images]

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