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Algeria's renewable energy potential: Solar power is the way to go

By Cyril Fourneris
Algeria's renewable energy potential: Solar power is the way to go
Copyright  euronews   -  

**Algeria is full of renewable energy promise.  Host to significant hydrocarbon resources, the country also wants to play a role in the energy transition in Africa, mainly thanks to its photovoltaic potential. **

A land full of solar-powered promise

In the Sahara desert, in the Laghouat region, 240,000 solar panels make up the El Kheneg solar power plant, with a capacity of 60 MWp. The energy produced here, covers about one seventh of the region's needs.

Completed in 2016,  the project is a prototype and part of the country's transition, aimed at preserving fossil fuel ressources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Houari Mahi is the head of engineering of Sonelgaz Energies Renouvelables, he explains to Euronews Algeria's potential regarding solar energy.

"Algeria has 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, and in the case of Laghouat, it is estimated at 1,800 hours per year. This is enough to push us to invest in the construction of photovoltaic structures. We need to generate the same amounts of simple megawatts or kilowatt-hours with photovoltaic sources as we do with fossil fuels."

To diversify its energy mix, largely dominated by gas and oil, Algeria wants to achieve 15,000 MWp of solar energy by 2035. A call for tenders is underway to install solar power plants in several regions.

Euronews
El Kheneg solar power plantEuronews

National scale Photovoltaic experiements

The region of Laghouat is at the forefront of this conversion: solar kits have been distributed  to remote villages and to nomadic populations.

In the town of Aine Madhi, headquarters of the Tariqa Tijaniyya, a Sufi brotherhood, here too the transition to renewable energy is underway. On the roof of the Koranic school, opposite the mosque, a solar water heater has just been installed. 

Initiatives are also multiplying across the city: from solar powered petrol stations to solar powered street lights.

This technological integration is seen as a positive step in the right direction by many,  including Mohamed Akmi, director of Soltech.

"People come to ask questions about the benefits of renewable energy. And they are moving in that direction. God willing, we will move from fossil fuels to renewable energy," he says.

Euronews
Solar Pannels on Aine Madhi Koranic SchoolEuronews

And that is not all, in the North of Algeria lies Oran, the country's second largest city, and it's airport.

The airport's new terminal, with a capacity of 3.5 million passengers per year, is partially powered by more than 4,500 solar panels on the huge roof. 

"This is a green terminal. The airport manager runs 11 airports in the west and southwest. We have a lot of sun here in Oran and in the southern airports there is even more sunshine. In the near future, we aim to equip them with renewable energy as well," says  Nadjib Benchenane, director of the Ahmed Ben Bella Airport.

Euronews
Ahmed Ben Bella Airport and solar panelsEuronews

The possibilities fueled by green hydrogen

In Algiers, researchers are working on another promising lead, that of hydrogen, presented as an energy of the future.

Algeria has signed a partnership with Germany. The aim is to produce and then, maybe export the highly-demanded green hydrogen via the pipelines that run to Europe.

Hydrogen is produced by electrolysis. Electrolysis requires electricity. In Algeria, we can produce renewable energy at very low costs, so the hydrogen will also be low cost. Hydrogen can also be produced by other means, for example thermal methods. Now, the other advantage of Algeria is the great solar thermal potential. We can produce hydrogen with processes that use little or no water, at prices that are competitive.
ABDELHAMID M'RAOUI
RESEARCHER AT THE CENTRE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY (CDER)

Pilot projects are being studied to produce green hydrogen while respecting the Saharan environment. Large-scale experimentation could begin as early as 2030.

Journalist • Cyril Fourneris