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Seeking energy independence

08 Jan 2017 by: Robert Jones

Morocco’s focus on concentrated solar power has bucked the trend of many countries, which have pushed ahead with photovoltaic schemes.

Morocco is the second largest oil and gas importer in Africa and has few hydrocarbon reserves it can turn to meet its rising energy needs.

Its population stands at about 33.5 million and is projected by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reach 35.1 million by the end of 2020. To meet increasing electricity demand, the country has been active in pushing ahead with renewable energy projects.

King Mohammed VI recently increased the target figure for the amount of electricity capacity met through renewable energy; it stands at 42% by 2020, increasing to 52% by 2030. The country also plans to reduce energy consumption by 12% by 2020, rising to 15% by 2030. To meet its clean energy power generation targets, Morocco is using a mix of photovoltaic (PV) solar, concentrated solar power (CSP) and wind.

By 2020, it aims to have 2,000MW of solar schemes commissioned under its Noor programme and contributing to the country’s energy mix.

Overall, Morocco has 780MW of wind farms commissioned (accounting for 5% of electricity generation) and 160MW of CSP - the Noor 1 CSP IPP (Independent Power Project). There are also about 20MW of PV up and running.

While many early solar adopters have focused on PV installations, Morocco has tended to buck the trend, pushing ahead with CSP schemes. The reason is the country’s drive for energy independence, although the raft of solar and wind schemes are also providing inward investment and local employment.

With its reliance on importing hydrocarbons, it makes sense to invest heavily in renewable energy, and by developing CSP plants in particular, it also gets much needed storage to meet some of the peak demand in the evenings.

Noor 1 comes with about three hours of storage. Noor 2 is a 200MW CSP trough facility that will include around eight hours of storage and Noor 3 is a 150MW CSP tower that will also come with eight hours of storage. Commissioning on Noor 2 and 3 is expected this year.

Its three PV schemes, Noor Ouarzazate 4, Noor Laayoune and Noor Boujdour will have a capacity of 170MW once commissioned.

Morocco also plans to push ahead with one of the region’s most interesting schemes, the Noor Midelt Phase 1, a hybridised CSP-PV IPP scheme expected to generate at least 400MW per plant, with an eventual capacity of 800MW.

The first phase will be two plants, with the CSP facility expected to account for between 80 and 85% of that 400MW capacity, and provide around five hours of storage. The PV plant will be 15-20% of the total capacity.

The project is planned because the government wants to couple low-cost power generation during daylight hours with increased electricity availability after sunset.

The complex is being funded in part by Germany’s KfW development bank, which has lent the government €400 to finance Midelt’s construction. In late December 2016 it was also announced that the World Bank is in discussion to lend $400m for its development. The scheme is at the prequalification phase, with the tender expected to be issued in mid-July. 

Morocco’s Midelt plans will be watched with interest as governments increasingly consider the storage element within their renewable energy plans. It is likely to especially be watched by countries that, like Morocco, are reliant on importing hydrocarbons to meet their energy needs, as any reduction saves the country money and means it is less reliant on a third party.

The World Future Energy Summit will include a focus on Morocco and a discussion on hybridised CSP-PV during the three-day conference. Click here for more details

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