In writing about yet another huge wind project being put out to bid by Morocco this morning, I started to look at California’s own renewable targets. It might seem odd to compare the two, but here is why the thought arose to compare the two. The wind project is part of a target for 2,000 MW from wind by 2020.
Morocco has a relatively small population of 32 million, or about the same as California’s population of 33 million, and the two have in some ways, comparable targets for renewables — at least in terms of percentages, which makes for an interesting comparison.
California has a similar population as Morocco, and the state is one of the US leaders in the ambition of its utility-scale renewable development targets, with a plan to get 33% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.
Morocco is likewise a world leader among developing nations with a similar plan to get 38% of its electricity from solar alone, at a cost of $9 billion in investment. (Previous story: Morocco to Solar-Power Nearly Half its Kingdom)
And Morocco plans to build 2,000 MW of wind power by 2020, and with this week’s bid for 850 MW of wind power — when added to a few hundred MW of wind already up and running, in the largest wind project in North Africa — will get it half way to the target.
However, in California, not just solar, but wind, geothermal, hydro, and bio energy are all included in this total. So Morocco’s targets for solar are more ambitious than similarly populated California’s, with 38% to come from solar alone. This means that a developing nation literally is the world leader in solar plans.
What makes the level of ambition even more extraordinary is that Morocco is chasing a very fast-moving target. It’s domestic demand is running far ahead of California’s 2% annual growth in demand. Morocco’s domestic demand is growing at 6%. (Originally, as I wrote here some time ago, its solar target was 42%, but its rapidly growing domestic demand has already set that coverage back a few percent — still extraordinary!)
In absolute megawatts, the comparison fails. For example, 2 GW (2,000 Megawatts) is enough to supply 40% of Morocco’s electricity needs. California added 3,000 Megawatts last year — mostly of wind power, but that provided a much tinier fraction of our usage.
Still, perhaps it is time to raise California’s target? There is no shortage of qualified developers wanting to supply it. When we put out our request for bids, for supplying 33% of our power from renewables by 2020, California had offers from solar and wind developers amounting to more than 100%.
Or perhaps some of the US renewable developers unable to get a project accepted in California should hop on a plane to attend the World Future Energy Summit being held in Abu Dhabi next week (Big Solar and Big Wind to Meet in Abu Dhabi) to bid on this 850 MW wind project and similar emerging economies’ projects.
Last year, the emerging economies outran the industrialized nations in installing new solar and wind projects, for the first time. Morocco is the world leader among these clean energy developing emerging economies. These are very, very large-scale projects, even for nations with large populations.
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