Morocco’s king will switch on the first phase of a concentrated solar power plant on Thursday that will become the world’s largest when completed.
The power station on the edge of the Saharan desert will be the size of the country’s capital city by the time it is finished in 2018, and provide electricity for 1.1 million people.
Noor 1, the first section at the town of Ouarzazate, provides 160 megawatts (MW) of the ultimate 580MW capacity, helping Morocco to save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions per year.
“At around 2pm, the king will press a button, the parabolic mirrors will start turning, the heat will begin to turn the turbines and the plant will come to life,” said Maha el-Kadiri, a spokeswoman for Masen, Morocco’s renewable energy agency.
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King Mohammed VI will then lay the foundations for Noor 2, the next stage of the solar complex. Noor 1 had been due to open in December but was delayed by unspecified “agenda concerns,” el-Kadiri said.
After it is switched on, the plant will initially provide 650,000 local people with solar electricity from dawn until three hours after sunset.
“It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”
The north African country plans to generate 42% of its energy from renewables by 2020, with one-third of that total coming from solar, wind and hydropower apiece.
Morocco hopes to use the next UN climate change conference, which it hosts in November, as the springboard for an even more ambitious plan to source 52% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.
“Between now and [the next conference], many projects will have come to light and we will prove that we can match our energy demands with renewables,” the country’s energy minister, Abdelkader Amara, said at a meeting during the Paris climate summit in December.
Posted on Tuesday Feb 9