African solar power plant could export energy to Europe

The efforts to move towards more sustainable energies are also starting to emerge on the other side of the Mediterranean. Morocco, with one of the largest solar power plants in the world, Noor in Uarzazate, and energy transition targets comparable to those of its northern neighbors, exemplifies the open road in Africa, which is pinning its hope of obtaining a new source of income that drives the development of the most impoverished continent on these efforts.

With a very ambitious plan for boosting renewables, Morocco is at the forefront of a continent seeking to reduce its energy dependence that, at the same time, sees a path in energy exports to developed countries that could lead it from the Maghreb to The Middle East and, from there, to sub-Saharan Africa.

To achieve these goals, the country will have to add many megawatts of solar, wind, and hydro power to its energy mix. Some of them have already been incorporated thanks to the commissioning of part of the Uarzazate solar thermal plant, the gateway to the desert that is now the cradle for solar energy that shines in this corner of the world almost throughout the year, specifically for 330 days, according to ecoinventos.com.

One of the largest solar power plants in the world has already been installed at that point south of Morocco, after the construction of the Noor I, the first of the planned phases, was concluded last year. With a capacity of about 160 megawatts, the first stretch of the plant allows provides solar energy to thousands of homes. These facilities continue to produce for three hours once the sun goes down, with the storage energy in reserves with molten salts based on sodium and potassium nitrates.

The plant will continue to grow once Noor II and Noor III are completed, two ongoing phases with an investment of €1.8 billion that, like the already operative infrastructure, will be equipped with cylindrical mirrors for energy collection. Moroccan authorities estimate that once the construction of this plant is completed, no later than 2020, it will contribute up to 2,000 megawatts.

In addition to this mega plant, there are more projects that will help bring Morocco closer to its energy transition goals. One of the most recent projects is a solar power plant at Midelt, with a foreseen production of 800 MW. This initiative is closer to becoming a reality after obtaining external funding from the KFW development bank, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank, among others.

The push for clean energy in Morocco is spreading across Africa, with plants under construction in the Middle East and South Africa, as well as in Rwanda, Uganda or Ghana, which are countries that can find an alternative for supply in the sun and perhaps, to produce energy for exports and, with it, to provide a new source of income for the continent.

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