Clean Power

Published on February 6th, 2016 | by Guest Contributor


160 MW Of 2 GW Noor Solar Thermal Project In Morocco Now Connected To Grid

February 6th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon

First Phase (160 MW) Of Huge Noor Solar Thermal Project In Morocco Connected To Grid

The first phase of the Noor solar thermal project in Morocco — which totals 160 megawatts (MW) in capacity — was recently completed and connected to the country’s grid, according to reports.

Once completed, the project — located in the Ouarzazate province of the North African country — will total 2 gigawatts (GW) in capacity, making it the largest concentrating solar plant (CSP) in the whole of Africa and the Middle East.

Construction on the first phase of the enormous grid-connected project began about 4 years ago. The next two phases of the project — each scheduled to total 350 MW — are expected to be completed and connected to the grid by 2018. The following phases are expected to be connected by the year 2020.

Altogether, costs on the project are expected to total $9 billion by the time of completion, according to the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy.

Renew Economy provides more info:

Currently, Morocco sources 98% of its energy needs from fossil fuel imports, but is pushing to reach a 52% renewable energy target within 15 years, for reasons of energy security and addressing climate change.

The World Bank, which along with the African Development Bank and the ClF have provided over US$1 billion in financing for the Noor project, says that the project will lower costs for CSP.

“Independent analysis concludes that the low-cost debt is already driving down the cost of CSP in Morocco by 25% for Noor I and an additional 10% for Noor II and III (achieved in 2015), thus reducing the government subsidy required to bridge the affordability gap for CSP,” as noted by a World Bank report.

The lead solar analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Jenny Chase, commented that normal operation over the next 5–25 years would give some important insight into the viability of the CSP technology used there.

“If it is not highly technically successful, more of the solar thermal pipeline in the Middle East and North Africa region is likely to be switched to PV.”

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  • super390

    What you do is retrofit the plant in the future by covering the collection point in the foci of the reflectors with PV cells, then continue to run fluid through the tubes to cool the cells, then run the fluid straight to the heat storage system to recharge it for the night.

    • Ulenspiegel

      I would first try to get a feeling for the Carnot cycle, if I were you. 🙂

      Thermal energy at a relative low temperature has very limited value.

  • sjc_1

    CSP can be more viable if you have a use for the waste heat.
    Food processing plants or absorption cooling bring the efficiencies up.

    • Foersom

      Perhaps water desalination with Multi-stage flash distillation.

      • sjc_1

        Absolutely, that is one I have advocated for years.

        • Bob_Wallace

          If you locate the desal plant close to the coast. Pumping water to a more remote desert location would take a lot of energy.

          Often coastal areas are not best for solar. High humidity can mean lower insolation.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Transporting the need to where the supply is located could easily wipe out any benefit.

      • JamesWimberley

        Morocco went for maximum insolation, siting Noor in the desert beyond the Atlas. This incurs high transmission and construction costs. Recent wind farm announcements suggest that they are starting to weight accessibility higher. Some are in the occupied Western Sahara, with round-the-clock trade winds but miles from anywhere, but others were up near Meknes, not so windy but handy to existing roads and power lines. By normal standards, the whole of Morocco is good for PV.

        Despatchables like CSP are complementary to cheaper variables like wind and solar. It may make sense to increase the storage ratio in later CSP phases of Noor, and run the plant primarily as a battery.

        • Harry Johnson

          That’s the plan. Phases 2 and 3 will include eight hours of thermal storage which is much cheaper than batteries. Other plants can go longer depending on the design.
          Economies of scale brought PV way down and that can do the same with relatively new CSP. We need both.

          • globi

            Besides that there’s hardly any no need for storage in grid-tied applications, PV plus battery is cheaper and more flexible than CSP with storage and doesn’t have any moving parts.

        • globi

          Morocco has currently more than plenty of dispatchable fossil fuel. So, there’s no need for storage.

          There are reasons why they chose CSP, but they have not much of a technical or economical basis…

          • JamesWimberley

            All imported.

          • globi

            Which means if Morocco stores solar power instead of feeding it into the grid, it simply increases fossil fuel imports.

          • Bob_Wallace

            No, the stored power can offset fossil fuel use when the Sun isn’t shining or wind blowing. Thermal solar with storage could be a very useful fill-in. It would compete with solar and wind stored in batteries or PuHS.

          • globi

            Yes, you can offset some fossil fuels at night, but at a very dear price. Unfortunately, Morocco could have offset much more fossil fuels during day time, if it just used the same money and invested it in PV & wind power plants instead (without storage).

            You need to keep in mind that Morocco consumes about 3 – 4 GW of power during day time. In addition, Morocco can export 1.4 GW to Spain and 1.5 GW to Algeria (Algeria consumes 8 GW during day time also mostly fossil fuels and Spain consumes over 30 GW during day time also with more than plenty of fossil fuels). This CSP plant provides only 0.16 GW of 6 GW Morocco could consume (including exports).

            If the goal is to reduce CO2-emissions as fast as possible and if money is limited then renewables need to expand before transmission lines and transmission lines before storage.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Morocco already gets over 5% of its electricity from wind and has a PV solar program. Thermal solar with storage could be the third leg of a 24/365 renewable grid.

            Yes, feeding the thermal solar directly to the grid would cut FF use faster, but perhaps there’s a desire to build and evaluate thermal solar as a fill-in.

          • TatuSaloranta

            Morocco is counting on costs coming down with deployment, and trying to make that happen. With help of CSP companies, whose existence is at stake at this point (at least in their current scale, focus).

            I agree in that it is speculative, and that with TODAY’s price it is not the most optimal way. But as with offshore wind, which is driven by UK, it really is too early to give final judgment. It is not given that costs will go down enough for it to work out; but neither is it guaranteed they will not.

            I think it is great that there are some countries that try out alternatives: it is dangerous getting into group-think, relying on just one currently optimal solution. And although there is enough funding for more experimental, early-phase research, there really isn’t that much for the next stage: actual production-size deployments. And these are critical for getting economies of scale, good learning curve.

            Now: since most other countries are going with cheap onshore wind, and getting-there-cheap solar PV, there really isn’t much point in worrying about small number of countries betting differently. I think it is simply hedging the bets, globally.

          • globi

            I’m sorry, but the comparison with offshore wind is not valid. This is like if an offshore wind developer would employ darrieus wind turbines instead of conventional turbines.

            After all I’m not saying that centralized solar power plants are not valid. I’m just saying that PV & batteries would have been cheaper than CSP at that same location fulfilling the same purpose and it would have wasted less cooling water.

            Also, this CSP plant does not differ much from to the CSP plants already built 30 years ago. So, there’s not much research experience to be gained – if at all. If it was a novel CPV plant, you’d have a point.

          • TatuSaloranta

            As to comparison: I agree in that
            analogy is not perfect (they rarely are), but the fundamental part is
            similar — costlier system that provides higher capacity factor.
            And as importantly, the reason to use costlier choice is not necessarily that it is cost-effective as-is, only considering how things are, but that doing so will be helping future costs down, and likely being simply done ahead of time in the sense that variable production will be more of a problem later on. Whether it all works out remains to be seen; I am just pointing out strategic view that I think is at play here.

            I am not claiming that alternative of PV + batteries might be less costly (this comes to exactly how much storage is planned to be needed — anything more than 2h I doubt current batteries, with 7x-10x cost of molten salt, probably not; less, perhaps). Certainly there are setups where bit of battery and lots of PV is cheaper. So we are in agreement in there.

            But I fully disagree with “nothing to learn”. The whole operational setup is where not much is known _for this location_. Moroccans do not have operational history; remote desert locations are NOT heavily used (Spain has experience but their surroundings are very different); state of electric grid, interconnections are different. It is all about learning about operational aspects, at scale. As comparison, you may consider that at Ivanpah they are still learning after couple of years.
            That 30 years number is also wide off the mark: modern CSP, with molten salt, has not been deployed for more than 10 years as far as I am aware. Certainly not in industrial scale. I would actually claim US deployments for past 4-5 years are the first relevant cases, and not earlier ones like SEGS.

            Perhaps you are simply overemphasizing research part: but that’s really much smaller part of the whole R&D — much more resources (and about as much time) is needed both for commercial (size/scale) and operational part. And this is exactly why offshore wind is relevant again — there isn’t that much cutting edge research needed, but gradual improvements for the full life-cycle are being made.

          • globi

            Even a PV-system with more storage/battery capacity is cheaper than a CSP system.

            You can do the math yourself:

            A PV system would need less than 3 kWh of storage per kW in order to match a CSP system.

            You can get 3 kWh for $600 (MW range). (You can get a single powerwall for about $400/kWh. So, you could probably get them for half the price if you buy over 100’000 of those in a stripped version.)
            So, your PV MW plant costs about $1.6 /W including storage (again MW range).

            These CSP plants will cost 9 G$ and have 0.5 GW when finished.
            So, that’s $18 /W.
            Even if you could get double the amount of Wh per W (compared to PV), you’d still at $9 /W.

            I’m not sure what the Moroccans could actually learn.

            It was primarily constructed by Spanish contractors (Sener, Acciona and TSK).

            The mirrors were manufactured in Germany:

            And the steam turbine was also manufactured in Germany by Siemens.

          • TatuSaloranta

            Not meaning to flog a dead horse, but wanted to point out that 9G$/0.5 GW is incorrect. As per, say, the actual number for the first phase is 1B$ for 150MW, so bit over 6$/W, not 18$/W.

            The fact remains that CSP storage cost has been at around 30$/MWh for a while; and even optimistic estimates for batteries are 150$/MWh. Question then is whether there is enough room to optimize anything but storage wrt CSP.

          • globi

            You also need to keep in mind that storage does not deliver 100% efficiency. So, if you store energy instead of feeding into the grid directly, you provoke a loss (in this case an unnecessary loss).

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yes, there are efficiency losses with all storage. But there’s also a need for storage. Now’s the time to learn what our best storage options will be.

    • Matt

      This said of every thermal plant, but we see very little of it happening in the real world.

  • Larmion

    This project shows that CSP is (still?) a pretty viable bet cost-wise, at least when storage is desired. PV magazine reports that Noor produces power for 18 cents (USD) per kWh, whereas a comparable PV + battery project in Hawaii cost 15 cents per kWh.

    The US is a more mature and safer market. so capital cost should be lower. Similarly, the PV supply chain in the US is more developed than the CSP supply chain in Morocco (or indeed anywhere on this planet).

    Also, consider that PV is a mass market product, whereas CSP plants are still pretty much a cottage industry. If CSP can achieve this kind of cost without the impressive economies of scale behind PV and batteries, it certainly deserves more R&D funding.

    • Ronald Brakels

      In Australia we’re down to about $1.28 US a watt for solar PV and that’s for rooftop solar which has transmission and distribution advantages, So it’s not really going to be possible for thermal CSP to match that. However, with a carbon price thermal CSP that is mostly dedicated to storing heat energy during the day to generate electricity in the late afternoon and evening may be able to pay for itself, depending on what happens with competing technologies. And the storage could also make use of electrical resistance heating to store energy when electricity prices are zero or close to zero or when they go negative. Of course, it is also possible that someone could decide to build thermal storage without the CSP part.

      Australia might look like a good canidate for thermal CSP plus storage, but PV and wind mean not a much Hydoeletricity getz uzed during the day leaving more for the evening and with decling demand there iz plenty of under utilized fozzil fuel capacity to provide electricity in the evening at low cozt. If it takez off it might be in India and the large partz of Africa.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Thermal storage for CSP is technology specific. It can’t store energy from wind, for example. Generic storage likely has an advantage.

        • Ronald Brakels

          When the spot price of electricity goes to zero, then electrical resistance heating can add to the thermal storage at no cost. It’s not an efficient way to store energy, but it’s a cheap way to store energy. So energy from wind storage can be stored this way. However, I other forms of storage such as electric cars and home and business energy storage might mean electricity prices rarely fall to zero in the future and so no one will bother using such as wasteful method.

          But if I was building a solar thermal storage facility in Australia right now, I’d definitely include it. That way if electricity prices go negative, as they do at times, the storage would make money both ways. Firstly by taking electricity from the grid and later by selling electricity to the grid.

      • JamesWimberley

        Biscuits will do that to you. The effect of a cat demanding priority affection is more 2qqqqq1aaaawewwwwwwwwwerrrrfddddddd

      • globi

        A PV system would need less than 3 kWh of storage per kW in order to match a CSP system.

        You can get 3 kWh for $600 (MW range). (You can get a single powerwall for about $400/kWh. So, you could probably get them for half the price if you buy over 100’000 of those in a stripped version.)
        So, your PV MW plant costs about $1.6 /W including storage (again MW range).

        These CSP plants will cost 9 G$ and have 0.5 GW when finished.
        So, that’s $18 /W.
        Even if you get double the amount of Wh per W, you’d still at $9 /W.
        That’s simply insane or HPC material.

        • TatuSaloranta

          $18/W sounds incredibly high. I was under impression that while expensive, it’d be about half of that, based on US and South-African completed projects. So more like $9/W, with 4-8h storage (varies between projects). Still very high.

          Not sure where the discrepancy comes from, but I just don’t think it can be THAT expensive based on other comparable projects.

    • Ronald Brakels

      Also, long time no see, Larmion.

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