Ceremony in Morocco marks progress on 500MW solar park



Morocco held a three-in-one ceremony on Thursday for the first two phases of what will be one of the world’s largest solar parks at over 500 megawatts of capacity.

A ceremony was held in Ouarzazate to officially inaugurate Noor 1 and break ground on the second phase, which includes the Noor 2 and 3 projects.

The Noor 1 phase, totalling 160MW of capacity, was scheduled to be officially launched before the end of last year, but the ceremony was postponed by Moroccan officials.

Paddy Padmanathan, chief executive of Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power and the lead developer of the project, said that only the ceremony had been delayed, but that the plant had come online as scheduled in 2015.

Acwa and its technical partner Sener of Spain signed the public private partnership agreement with the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) for Noor 1 in 2013. The Saudi firm has gone on to successfully bid for the Noor 2 and 3 phase, totalling 200MW and 150MW, respectively, with a total investment of about US$3 billion.

“We’re very comfortable in Morocco as an investment destination,” Mr Padmanathan said. “We will continue to investment more.”

Morocco, unlike its North African neighbours, has few hydrocarbon assets such as oil and gas and has a high import bill because it is forced to tap sources abroad to meet more than 90 per cent of its energy needs.

Therefore, the country has set out an ambitious target to have renewable energy make up 42 per cent of its power generation mix by 2020, which will then increase to 50 per cent by 2030.

And Morocco is poised to do just that, particularly as it showcases some of the lowest solar pricing yet for concentrated solar power (CSP) technology, which typically costs more compared with photovoltaic applications because it has storage capabilities.

According to the Abu Dhabi-based International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), the average cost of electricity generated from CSP ranges between 22 US cents and 25 cents per kilowatt hour.

Yet, as is typically the case when Acwa bids for a project, such as in Dubai last year, in Morocco the company came in with rates that beat the average price by about 30 per cent. For Noor 2, the bid came in at 15.67 US cents per kilowatt hour while offering a tariff for the Noor 3 of 16.31 cents.

Morocco’s energy minister, Abdelkader Amara, said at the Paris climate summit in December that the Ouarzazate solar programme has already given the country significant savings on energy costs in its first year.

lgraves@thenational.ae

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