Morocco Switches On First Phase Of The World's Largest Solar Plant

Morocco Switches on First Phase of the World's Largest Solar Plant

This week, Morocco switched on the first section of its new Ouarzazate solar power plant. The new installation already creates 160 megawatts of power and is expected to grow to cover 6000 acres by 2018 -- making it the largest in the world.

Morocco Switches on First Phase of the World's Largest Solar Plant

The first wave of power production is known as Noor 1. Situated in the Sahara Desert, its crescent-shaped solar mirrors follow the sun to soak up sunlight all day long. The mirrors, each of which is 12m tall, focus light onto a steel pipeline that carries a synthetic thermal oil solution. The oil in those pipes can reach 400C, and that's what's used to create electricity: The heat is used to create steam which drives turbines. The hot oil can be stored to create energy overnight, too.

Morocco Switches on First Phase of the World's Largest Solar Plant

Noor 1 will be joined over time by Noor 2 and 3 which are expected to be finished by 2018. When those sections come online, the whole plant will cover an areas of over 6000 acres, which is larger than the country's capital city of Rabat. With the extra mirrors in place, the plant will generate 580 megawatts of electricity -- enough to provide energy for 1.1 million people.

Morocco Switches on First Phase of the World's Largest Solar Plant

But, as our own George Dvorsky has pointed out, that wasn't always to be the case. The initial plan was to deliver the generated electricity to Europe but several partners pulled out. Interventions by the African Development Bank and the Moroccan government saved the project, though, and are now using it to meet Morocco's own power demands. As of today, it will do just that.

Morocco Switches on First Phase of the World's Largest Solar Plant

All images by AP

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    Some Japanese think tanks predict Australia will supply power to Japan from similar power stations in the future.
    Oh wait. Maybe coal is the future! 4 billion a year in subsidies well spent!!

      There are a number of universities around the world working on the concept of 'solar breeder' power stations. The idea being that you use a percentage of the output to create more solar panels. The 'tricky' part is using the locally availiable sand to produce the silicon.

        How is that a revolutionary concept, that should be the very basis of green energy, prove that it creates more output than inputs by using the output to underwrite future production.

          um... nobody said it was a revolutionary concept.

    In the 1970's the hot topic was energy security. Countries need their own energy and the closer to self sufficiency they can get the better. Being reliant on energy makes a country vulnerable. For countries like Morocco solar is a boon. It's as cheap as fossil fuels, creates local jobs, is price stable, sustainable and creates jobs and helps with climate change and reduces pollution and lung disease. The only loosers is the fossil fuel industry who seek to make serfs out of developing nations and have zero interest in the populations well being.

      I am keen to understand just where all the water comes from that is used to create the steam that drives the turbines -- this is a desert area (I know it well) and water is a scarce and precious resource in this desert. How sustainable can it be if it is using critical water supplies?

        There is an ocean nearby. Even fresh water must be demineralised and degassed before it can be used in a steam system, or corrosion and cavitation damage starts.

        Where there is a source of steam there is a easily exploited source to flash-off fresh water, OR use the energy to power RO units. The steam is used in a closed circuit (rather than a total loss system), losses are designed to be relatively minor.

          That was my understanding too, water is in an enclosed system. I've also been to "wazzerzart" (as we pronounced it) and there is a big reservoir there which should provide water for a top up. And @frankly there are lots of decent people thete who know how to use tools, they do a lot of set building!

          MD so how much water does the system use? I am very interested because I have family living in this area. During the building of the solar plant they used so much water from the dam that the water level was dangerously low. This dam was not built to supply water to a solar plant but to ensure a steady source of water to people in the desert region. This is the water supply not just for the immediate town of Ouarzazate but for the entire length of the D'ra River -- the longest river in Morocco -- so we are talking about lots and lots of people in farms, villages and towns along the length of the river. When so much water was diverted to the solar plants use that the water level of the dam plummeted they stopped release water down the D'ra River. The river stopped flowing and it required massive protests from the local people to get some water released into the D'ra. Now i realise that.the quantity of water used during the building process may be completely unconnected to what the plant will use to operate but we (me and my family) are very keen to understand just how much water will it use. As there isn't an ocean nearby -- the Atlantic is hundreds of kilometers away over the otherside of the High Atlas Mountains. The only large water source nearby is the Ouarzazate dam I have been referring to. This dam is filled by water which for a large part comes from the High Atlas snow melt water -- this year there is no snow to speak of -- and the winter rains -- there hasn't been any rain to speak of. So we are all a bit worried what is going to happen this year with the plant also using water from the dam. I will be very relieved if my worries are unnecessary.

            The water usage will be stuff all. As water used for the steam turbines is cooled and reused.

        Yes i wondered the samething.
        water turns to steam and once it cools back to water but unles you let the steam out in to the atmosphere it just gets used again and again

    I hope that along with the water supply that they import the plant operators.
    Brush your spanner on the wrong cable and you would have not much more than curly hair ..smoking!!!

      Are you indicating that Moroccans are untrainable?

    If only Australia had the political will to put us on the map in with a product like this (or better). We have the sun, and technical expertise don't we?
    Stick it in the centre of Australia, and power the grid using high voltage low loss DC lines.

      You could power the entire world many times over with all the desert space Australia has.

      Low loss DC lines. How does that work?
      And also yeah transformers are bad we need massively complex and expensive DC to DC voltage converters instead.
        There are many of these type of long distance cable around Europe. I would love to seel Austrlai selling clean power up into South East Asia

        Interesting. When it's dark in the north we can use power from southern hemisphere and vica versa.

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