Electricity generated by the first 160-megawatt portion of the 580-megawatt Ouarzazate CSP plant will be added to the grid in Morocco beginning in December. The World Bank and the European Investment Bank have provided about $9 billion in loans for the huge project. ACWA Power was behind the fundraising and it might be in a position to acquire Abengoa’s assets, should the Spanish company go bankrupt.
The dramatic drop in the price of PV solar has not been good for concentrating solar power, which is now much more expensive, “The debate of whether CSP or PV power plants will prevail has been argued for several years. When looking at current and future price levels CSP has—and will have—the highest levelized cost of electricity (LCOE; €/kWh). Due to large price reductions in PV over the last few years the LCOE of PV is about half the cost of CSP, and will remain so until 2030 .”
Another advantage of PV solar farms is that they take less time to complete. Solar thermal plants can include a way to store a heated material and can generate electricity at night, however — but cost-effective energy storage in the form of batteries is becoming more common too.
Once the second and third phases of the Ouarzazate solar power plant are up and running, it will be able to store energy for about 8 hours. Also, when the plant is fully operational, it will provide electricity to an estimated one million homes.
By 2020, Morocco will get about one third of its electricity from solar power. The government has been pushing to get more from renewables because it historically has been over-reliant on imported fossil fuels. Dr. Hakima El Haiti, Morocco’s Environment Minister, explained, “We are not an oil producer. We import 94% of our energy as fossil fuels from abroad and that has big consequences for our state budget. We also used to subsidise fossil fuels which have a heavy cost, so when we heard about the potential of solar energy, we thought; why not?”
It has been written that Morocco has about 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, so it has plenty of solar power potential.
Image Credit: Donar Reiskoffer