World’s largest concentrated solar plant opened in Morocco

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Who: World’s largest concentrated solar plant
Where: Morocco
What: Opened
When: 9 February 2016

The Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex, world’s largest solar power plant, was opened on 9 February 2016 in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area in Morocco, 10 km from Ouarzazate town.

The plant holds the capacity to produce enough energy to power over one million homes by 2018 and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 760000 tons per year.

Phase One of the project involved the construction of a 160MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant named Noor I, while Phase Two involved the construction of the 200MW Noor II CSP plant and the 150MW Noor III CSP plant, and Phase Three will involve the construction of the Noor IV CSP plant.

The World Bank partially financed construction of the plant through a 97 million US dollar loan from the Clean Technology Fund.

Key highlights of Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex

The project forms part of the Moroccan Solar Energy Programme (NOOR), which aims to develop five solar complexes with a combined capacity of approximately 2GW by 2020 to meet the energy demands of the country, which depends on 95% imports.

The Noor I CSP plant is expected to offset 240000 tons a year of CO2 emissions, and generate approximately 1000 construction jobs and 60 permanent jobs during the operations and maintenance phase. The Noor II and Noor III plants combined will help offset 533000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

The plant uses concentrating solar power which is more expensive to install than the widely used photovoltaic panels. However, CSP enables the storage of energy for nights and cloudy days.

Mirrors focus the sun’s light and heat up a liquid, which, when mixed with water, reaches around 400 degree Celsius. The steam produced from this process drives a turbine and generates electrical power.

A cylinder full of salt is melted by the warmth from the mirrors during the day, and stays hot enough at night to provide up to three hours of power.