Watch A Massive Solar Power Plant Take Shape In The Sahara Desert

Watch a Massive Solar Power Plant Take Shape in the Sahara Desert

Construction for the first phase of Morocco's Noor 1 power plant is nearing completion. Once complete in 2020, the solar farm will be the largest of its kind in the world. But even now, the plant's half-million solar mirrors are already visible from space. There's no question that solar power is the future, an energy trend that's fuelling the development of massive solar farms in such places as California and China. And where better to put these plants than in the desert -- areas that feature plenty of sunshine and vast expanses of land that are otherwise useless and inhospitable.

Morocco's up-and-coming Noor 1 CSP plant is a prime example. The first phase of this concentrated solar power plant, which is being built in the Sahara Desert near the town of Ouarzazate, is almost finished.

Watch a Massive Solar Power Plant Take Shape in the Sahara Desert

Here's how the area appeared in December 2013 when construction began.

Watch a Massive Solar Power Plant Take Shape in the Sahara Desert

This image, taken on 14 December 2015, shows the plant in it's current form.

The plant is scheduled to be switched on later this year, at which time it will boast a power-generating capacity of 160 megawatts. Once the entire plant is built, it will be capable of producing 580 megawatts making it the largest solar concentrated solar power plant in the world. Once complete, it will cover an area of 2500 hectares, or 6178 acres.

Watch a Massive Solar Power Plant Take Shape in the Sahara Desert

In the middle of nowhere: the plant is 16km from the closest town.

Watch a Massive Solar Power Plant Take Shape in the Sahara Desert

A view from the ground (Credit: AP)

The plant, which is being built with the help of Spanish consortium TSK-Acciona-Sener, can store solar energy in the form of heated molten salt. NASA's Earth Observatory explains:

Concentrated solar power plants use the Sun's energy to heat water and produce steam that spins energy-generating turbines. The system at Ouarzazate uses 12-meter-tall parabolic mirrors to focus energy onto a fluid-filled pipeline. The pipeline's hot fluid -- 393 degrees Celsius (739 degrees Fahrenheit) -- is the heat source used to warm the water and make steam. The plant doesn't stop delivering energy at nighttime or when clouds obscure the sun; heat from the fluid can be stored in a tank of molten salts.

The plant was originally intended to supply power to Europe via cables through the Strait of Gibraltar. But after several key European partners pulled out, the African Development Bank and the Moroccan government came to the rescue. The plant is now expected to meet internal Moroccan energy demands, which is expected to rise in the coming years.

[NASA Earth Observatory]

Top image by NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the US Geological Survey. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

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    Solar power is not the future. How much mining does it take to get the materials to make a solar panel?

      Not much. Solar cells are silicon doped with miniscule amounts of other elements. Then there is the tiny amount of thin wire running through the cells, the frame, which can be anything and some glass over the top to protect the cells.

      The amount of effort used to mine the materials for your car could be used to make about 3 complete home solar systems.

      Also, highlighting how little you pay attention, this article isn't about a PV setup. It's a concentrated solar thermal plant. Some coiled copper tubing, painted black. a 200L drum cut in half down the length with some alfoil stuck to the inside, and a small windscreen washer pump, and you can have your very own. My son made one for his grade 6 school project.

      Tell me. How much is BP paying you?

      Last edited 13/01/16 4:10 pm

    It's a myth that it costs more to create a panel than it's output for all types of solar panels commonly produced.
    Most household variants repay themselves within a one to 3 year period.

    This plant was never intended to supply electricity to Europe. You are referring to a completely different initiative, unrelated to the moroccan government solar plan, which was always aimed at domestic electricity generation.
    Morocco welcomed the export focused plan because it meant investment, clout and better access to electricity. As mentioned in the article, there is plenty of desert land in Morocco. Sadly, it fizzled out.

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