Ouarzazate, the gateway to the desert has opened its doors to the future. The city, famous for its film history, now houses the Noor solar plant, the largest in the world. A project that aims to provide Morocco with clean, sustainable energy.
Noor I in Ouarzazat is the first phase of the four Noor power plants, which aim to produce clean power in a country that imports more than 94 % of its energy needs.
In Noor I, there are half a million mirrors extending across 450 hectares, producing 160 megawatts of electricity.
The Moroccan Solar Energy Agency (MASEN) has developed the solar plants using CSP (concentrated solar power) technology.
Youssef Stitou, Senior project manager at Noor I told Euronews how the process works: “The operating principle is that these mirrors help to reflect sunlight to a central tube which warms a heat transfer fluid, this liquid is then transported to the power island, where it turns water into steam. The steam drives a turbine producing electricity which is sent to the national grid. The plant, boasts a thermal storage system, with a three-hour-storage capacity.”
The station has been operating since February 2016. It represented a formidable challenge for Moroccan engineers, in terms of using new technologies, and purchasing heavy equipment from around the world. And this was all accomplished in collaboration with several international companies.
“Over 30% of this project was carried out by local companies”, added Youssef. “So having succeeded in delivering this project on time and in line with international standards is a source of great pride for us all.”
Phases two and three of the Noor project are under construction. It is expected that they will produce 200 and 150 megawatts of power respectively.And both will have an 8-hour storage capacity by 2017.
“The Noor II project uses the same technology as Noor I, namely, parabolic mirrors, larger ones, that will be more efficient over the same surface area” explained Planning Engineer,Tarik Bourquouquou. “Then Noor III will employ tower technology, the tower behind us. This tower will be the tallest building in Africa standing at 243 metres high. “
The Solar Complex has contributed to developing the region’s infrastructure and it is helping to alleviate unemployment in Ouarzazate by creating nearly 2,000 jobs during the construction of each phase.
35 year-old Azzedine, started working as a driver at Noor two years ago.
He talked about the employment opportunities the project has heralded: “I am like all those lucky young people who got the opportunity to get a real job. I feel more stable with a fixed salary every month. Before we were dependent on the cinema industry or tourism, which are temporary, now thank God that people in the city have the opportunity to work and benefit from this project.”
Projects like Noor will help support Morocco’s aim of sustainable development and its goal of generating 42% of its energy from renewables by 2020.