Morocco to switch on first phase of world’s largest solar plant 

Posted: March 12, 2016 by oldbrew in Energy
Tags: , ,

image credit: digitaltrends

image credit: digitaltrends

Given the enormous cost of $9 billion, the mediocre output of 580 MW when finished and the vast amount of land used, is this really worth it? Three hours after sunset it’s game over until the next day. What power source comes in then?

Morocco’s king will switch on the first phase of a concentrated solar power plant on Thursday that will become the world’s largest when completed. The power station on the edge of the Saharan desert will be the size of the country’s capital city by the time it is finished in 2018, and provide electricity for 1.1 million people, says the Guardian.

Noor 1, the first section at the town of Ouarzazate, provides 160 megawatts (MW) of the ultimate 580MW capacity, helping Morocco to save hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions per year. “At around 2pm, the king will press a button, the parabolic mirrors will start turning, the heat will begin to turn the turbines and the plant will come to life,” said Maha el-Kadiri, a spokeswoman for Masen, Morocco’s renewable energy agency. King Mohammed VI will then lay the foundations for Noor 2, the next stage of the solar complex.

Noor 1 had been due to open in December but was delayed by unspecified “agenda concerns,” el-Kadiri said. After it is switched on, the plant will initially provide 650,000 local people with solar electricity from dawn until three hours after sunset. “It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”

Full report: Morocco to switch on first phase of world’s largest solar plant | Environment | The Guardian

  1. oldbrew says:

    The Guardian says: ‘Desert complex will provide electricity for more than 1 million people when complete, helping African country to supply most of its energy from renewables by 2030.’

    But look a bit further down and we find:
    ‘The north African country plans to generate 42% of its energy from renewables by 2020, with one-third of that total coming from solar, wind and hydropower apiece.

    Morocco hopes to use the next UN climate change conference, which it hosts in November, as the springboard for an even more ambitious plan to source 52% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.’

    42% or even 52% isn’t exactly ‘most of its energy’ except in the Guardian’s imagination.

  2. Roger, if solar electricity is ever going to be economic it will be in places like Morocco. However, a quick calculation is a few £10000 per hour or £200,000s per day. Or ~100-200 million a year. So, the payback period is around 50-100 years.

    To put in terms most ecos would understand, that strongly suggests more CO2 was produced making the thing than would ever be “saved”. So, net CO2 contributor!

  3. Joe Public says:

    The Grauniad states:

    “After it is switched on, the plant will initially provide 650,000 local people with solar electricity from dawn until three hours after sunset. “

    “Three hours after sunset it’s game over until the next day.”


    It’s residual heat within the system that enables power production to continue after sunset.

    So it will likewise take at least that period, probably longer, to ‘heat-up’ each morning until lots of useful power in generated.

    Strange that the Graun omitted to mention that minor detail.

  4. Fast says:

    For comparison the province of British Columbia in Canada is building a Hydro electric dam for 8.3 billion dollars that will produce 1,100 MW capacity and 5,100 GW-h per year. No slow down at night. You work with what you have but 3.9 billion dollars for 160 MW capacity and 370 GW-h per year of oscillating power is very expensive.

  5. catweazle666 says:

    Joe Public says: “So it will likewise take at least that period, probably longer, to ‘heat-up’ each morning until lots of useful power in generated.”

    What do you bet it will use a fossil fuel such as natural gas to get over that tiny little inconvenience?

    As a matter of interest, what sort of degradation is expected on the reflectors due to the sand, hoa are they cleaned and how often?

    Strange how the Grauniad seems reticent on these details…

  6. Fanakapan says:

    Good spot for Solar, and economically it makes a deal of sense for the Moroccans. Even if they have to fire up fossil fuel generation after sundown, they must be ahead financially ?

    As an advert for the Utopia of Eco Friendly nonsense, its a total misrepresentation 🙂

  7. Graeme No.3 says:

    The Gruaniad will be spruking the export of electricity to Europe next. With an estimated cost of £145 per MWh and with the likely losses in transmission this is another “breeding of unicorns” idea.
    Besides with the output about 0.1kWh per person (in Morocco) per day I think it will all be used locally.
    Did you see the little comment about it not being economic over its expected life? Fortunately it has been built with money donated from overseas.

  8. donmgibson says:

    could have built 20 natural gas plants for that price. and they run 24x7x365. I am sure when those folks are sitting in the cold and dark they will be pleased with their part in making the global elitists like Leonardo DiCaprio happy.

  9. Password Protected says:

    How much low elevation wind blown sand and dust will these pull down around themselves?

  10. oldbrew says:

    PP: the design itself is supposed to minimise sand ‘attacks’.

    Guardian, Oct 2015:
    ‘The mirrors are spaced in tier formations, to minimise damage from sand blown up by desert winds.’

    ‘About $9bn has been invested in the Noor complex, much of it from international institutions such as the European Investment Bank and World Bank and backed by Moroccan government guarantees. Undisclosed energy subsidies from Morocco’s unelected ruler, King Mohammed VI, have prevented the cost from being transferred to energy consumers.’

    ‘Undisclosed energy subsidies’ – somebody’s got to pay the massive price premium over the cost of a fossil-powered generation system, looks like the King this time.

  11. A C Osborn says:

    The kool aid drinking commentors at the Guardian actually think it is a great idea, even at that price.
    Any price is OK when you are saving the Earth.
    The mere fact that the “extra” money has been “wasted” when it could have been used for something more useful, like clean water, irrigation, reservoirs etc never occurs to them.
    Conservationists and true “greens” they are not.

  12. oldbrew says:

    The daily electricity price could be dependent on the weather forecast.

    A study discussing concentrated solar power (CSP) plants in general says:
    ‘The daily generation schedule has to be offered in advance, usually the previous day before a certain time, thus an electricity price and weather forecast must be carried out.’

  13. ivan says:

    Have they factored in the electricity needed to move those tracking dishes and where it comes from? Then there are the maintenance costs and the necessary replacements to cover the degradation of said dishes due to sandblasting – I very much doubt that the designers have taken into account the artificial wind movements that will be caused by the heated air rising over the reflector area.

    There are more mechanical problems that could be mentioned but why bother since this type of plant is designed by believers and only handed to engineers as an afterthought.

  14. oldmanK says:

    Take a tour of the site here. Interesting CC plant at site.

  15. oldmanK says:

    Forget the cost for a moment but the technology is interesting, how solar and CC plant are integrated.
    [mod note: this is in Morocco (Beni Mathar) but it’s not the NOOR project]

  16. jarlgeir says:

    This is very similar to the US Ivanpah solar project. You produce electricity using what was cutting edge steam technology 250 years ago, by combining energy input from natural gas and solar.

    This part of Morocco is not known for it’s abundant water resources, and we can see a truck in the video above, moving along and using up water trucked in at enormous expense. Where do the 80% water savings come from? There is of course some voodoo math involved..

    What could possibly go wrong here?
    We know that already, don’t we? And we know the Grauniad won’t tell us. Just read up on the many failures of Ivanpah.

    As for the undisclosed energy subsidies, aren’t they out in the open already?
    This project is mostly funded by US and EU taxpayers via The World Bank and EU grants, with minor contributions from even bigger fools found in Morocco.

    Now that they are actually going to produce electrcity, there will be surprises. And unconvenient surprises. Lots of them. All of which will require the investors to come up with more cash.

  17. p.g.sharrow says:

    Obama just “mailed” the first check last week. $500million to the U.N. for green projects as his downpayment on the $6billion he promised at the Paris climate summit last fall. This project is supposed to be a real money generator for Morocco in jobs and money flow into the kingdom. $billions from the rich countries of the world without providing anything in return, and some energy as a bi-product for their own use. A Win-Win!…pg

  18. Joe Public says:

    The salient fact omitted by the Grauniad is – Noor1 depends upon oil-fired (LFO) boiler(s) to kick-start & back-up the system:

  19. Joe Public says:

    @ jarlgeir says: March 14, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    “This is very similar to the US Ivanpah solar project ……. combining energy input from natural gas and solar.”

    Little publicised fact about Ivanpah – it burns so much natural gas, it is a greenhouse gas emitter under state law!

    ” ….. data from the California Energy Commission show the plant burned enough (natural gas) in 2014 – its first year of operation – to emit more than 46,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

    That’s nearly twice the pollution threshold at which power plants and factories in California are required to participate in the state’s cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions.”

  20. oldbrew says:

    Thanks Joe P. More info here:

    Back-up fuel needs for the Ouarzazate complex have been estimated at 19T/day of
    gasoil for a capacity of 500 MW. Gasoil with a sulphur content of 50 ppm is

    Water Needs and Supply

    Water consumption for the Ouarzazate Noor complex is estimated at 2.5 to 3 million m³
    for one wet-cooling project (Noor I) and two dry-cooling projects (Noor II and III).
    The water supply source for the solar complex will be the Mansour Eddabhi dam
    (located 12 km from the project).

    Click to access Morocco_-_Ouarzazate_Solar_Power_Station_Project_II_-_ESIA_Summary.pdf

    NB the gasoil is also needed to keep the oil in the pipes above a certain temperature or it won’t flow any more.
    That’s the oil that the solar mirrors are heating during daylight hours.

  21. oldmanK says:

    The interesting part is the technology used (the finer points), which is different than that used at Ivanpah (Ivanpah is basic steam turbine cycle, as first developed by Parsons circa 126yrs ago). It would be nice to have its thermal efficiency and how its worked out. Most of what info there is is PR.

    The CC plant would be around 49% efficiency without the solar input. The real estate is cheap and the mirrors low tech engineering. The excessive cost is political and there the sky is the limit nowadays I admit.

  22. oldbrew says:

    Morocco is also splashing out on wind power, so much so that Siemens is setting up a turbine-making plant there.

    Enel-led consortium wins $1.1bn Moroccan wind contract

    ‘Moroccan’ and ‘oil well’ rarely appear in a sentence together 😐
    Oil shale could be promising though:

    ‘Morocco is the largest energy importer in northern Africa’ – Wikipedia

  23. Joe Public says:

    I realise this is a bit late in the day, but I was researching info for a MOOC project & oldbrew’s “more info” link was invaluable.

    That consumption, estimated at 19 tonnes of gas oil per day, sounds innocuous. It’s actually 81,874,610 kWh pa!!