We tend to associate solar power with highly developed countries like the USA or European countries. However, there are places on this planet that have very little in natural resources, but are given plenty of sunshine. One such place is the North African country of Morocco. Located on the very north west of Africa, just a narrow Strait of Gibraltar away from Spain, this country is predominantly covered in desert. The Sahara covers large swathes of land and makes these parts almost uninhabitable, and certainly unfit for agriculture.
Energy in Morocco
As a relatively developed country in its own right, Morocco is electrified and at the start of the 21st century, more than 50% of all electricity was produced by burning fossil fuels, particularly coal. However, the authorities in Morocco estimated that their energy needs will grow with the population and the economy. That is why they made concerted attempts to diversify their energy sources. The crown jewel of these efforts came in the form of Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, a massive complex of solar power collectors.
Noor Power Station
Ouarzazate Solar Power Station is the official name of this complex, however, it is better known for its more poetic name Noor Power Station. ‘Noor’ is the Arabic word for light, which is fitting for the giant solar energy power plant. The official name comes from the town of Ouarzazate, the closest settlement to this technological marvel in central Morocco. Originally, this was envisioned as a grandiose project which would power whole of Europe with solar power electricity. However, the plan didn’t pan out, so Morocco created a scaled-down version of the project for its own needs. The project progresses in phases, separate installations named Noor 1 through 3.
Noor 1 is a concentrated solar power facility with the total capacity of 160 MW. The specific design is called a parabolic trough, with mirrors heating up the molten salt in the pipes to up to 400°C (750° F). What it means is that it collects the solar power and transforms it into heat which is then used to power steam turbines to produce electricity. Even though this method is more expensive than regular photovoltaic panels, it enables the storage of energy for the night. In the case of Noor 1, energy can be stored up to 3 hours.
Noor 2 is currently being built adjacent to Noor 1. Like Noor 1, it uses the same parabolic trough, but unlike it, it uses dry cooling to preserve water in the arid area it is located in. It will also have the ability to conserve energy for longer than Noor 1, around 7 hours. The capacity of Noor 2 is projected to be 200MW, and it is expected to become operational by the end of 2017.
The third phase of the project is also currently being built. It is a solar tower type of complex, with the ability to store energy for 8 hours after sundown. It will add another 150MW to the complex.
With a planned total of 580MW, this is going to be the biggest single solar installation in the world. The main aim of this project is to cover the growing needs of Morocco. However, any excess electricity is ready to be exported to Europe, earning Morocco money, just as the original plan intended.
These massive projects are great, but you do not have to be a country with huge amounts of money and large areas of land to have your own mini solar revolution. Greenshine New Energy is a company which offers a variety of solar streetlight and other similar small installations. You can get all the benefits of not being hooked up to the power grid with the great durability and economy of LED lights. Contact Greenshine to learn more.