When it comes to harnessing the world’s solar power, there may be no better place on earth than the Sahara Desert. With almost perpetual sunshine, totalling up to more than 3600 hours per year, it only makes sense that the largest solar plant in the world would find its home there. And for Morocco, who is hosting next year’s climate talks, what better way to bolster their anti-carbon cred then to unveil this project?
Noor-1, located near Ouarzazate in southern Morocco, seeks to fulfill this solar-powered dream. Yet it hit a snag this week when plans to unveil the project were unceremoniously halted. The inauguration was called off at the last minute by the Moroccan energy agency. The event was to be attended by some of the biggest players in energy and government with the, “Moroccan Prime Minister, the advisers of HM King Mohammed VI, the presidents of the two chamber of the Parliament, the members of the Government, as well as by representatives of international organizations and bilateral cooperation agencies,” all attending.
When asked by Agence France-Presse what caused the delay, no explanation was given.
And this delay comes at a vital time, when Morocco is seeking forging ahead with more solar plants, Noor-2 and Noor-3 (due to open in 2016 and 2017), and currently seeking tenders for the fourth plant.
It’s a project that was first created to help offset energy use in Europe. However, all investors pulled out after worries the power systems were, “Nowhere near ready to absorb fluctuating solar power outputs from Africa.” Yet the government of Morocco poured money in and went ahead with the power plant to offset the carbon footprint of Morocco.
It’s a project that King Mohammed IV has been personally involved in, and when completed experts are estimating these plants could fully power more than one million homes in Morocco.
This is vitally important for the economy of Morocco which imports nearly all of their energy. According to the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, in just a few years the project could, “Avoid the emission of 3.7 million tons of CO2.”
Morocco has been an impressive leader when it comes to investing in renewable energies. The installation of the largest wind farm in Africa on their coast has helped generate electricity for 1.5 million homes. And according to one report, they are only harnessing a fraction of the wind power the coastline has to offer.
Goals to expand on these projects were elaborated on at the Paris climate talks. Currently Morocco gets about 1,770 megawatts of power from hydro energy, about 80 megawatts from wind power and 20 megawatts from solar. Officials from Morocco said they wanted to expand solar power to 3,120 megawatts, bring in 2,740 more megawatts from wind and create 900 more megawatts from their hydropower sources.
Projects like these will take considerable investment. However, if Morocco is successful in harnessing the solar power of the Sahara Desert properly, it could rake in investors from around the globe. Yet for this to happen, they cannot drop a veil of silence over the project.
Whatever the reason for Noor-1’s inauguration delay, if Morocco wants to remain a heavy hitter in the renewable energy world, transparency is a must when it comes to delays or issues with their ongoing projects.
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