Originally published on Sustainnovate.
By Henry Lindon
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.
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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.”