When Morocco’s super-solar plant is fully operational, it will power one million homes. The massive complex, planned to be operational in 2020, will be the largest solar plant in the world, generating over 500 megawatts. It’ll cost around $2 billion.
Morocco has plenty of desert, and where better to put a solar array than under the relentless desert sun? According to the Guardian, the world’s deserts receive enough sun in a few hours to power the entire world for a year.
The complex, under construction in the city of Ouarzazate, will begin with a 160 megawatt plant, expanding to the full capacity later. Morocco currently imports almost 97% of its energy, which is a precarious position to be in no matter how stable your geographical or political situation. Morocco decided to address this problem by exploiting its most plentiful natural resource.
The huge Ouarzazate solar plant uses concentrated solar power technology. Instead of photovoltaic panels like you see on many roofs or strapped to the backpacks of geeky hikers, the plant uses huge, nine-meter high mirrors, curved to concentrate the sun onto pipes. The liquid in these pipes is heated to produce steam, and a regular old-fashioned turbine generates electricity.
Solar is just one part of Morocco’s power puzzle. The other is wind energy, which is also abundant in North Africa. Just outside Tangiers, wind turbines already provide 800 megawatts. In a few years that will rise to 2 gigawatts.
The goal is not only to be self-sufficient, but also to bring electricity down to a price cheap enough for even the poorest households to afford. In a neat twist, this push to renewable energy would put Morocco way ahead of its northern neighbors in Europe–Morocco hopes to supply 42% of its needs by 2020. It’s even possible that the country could sell its power to Europe in the future.