Morocco’s new mega-project could tun it into a solar superpower

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The handful of you that are actually familiar with Ouarzazate will know it as the place where movies like Lawrence of Arabia and The Mummy were filmed, but the Moroccan city is about to become a hell of a lot more significant in a few weeks. That’s because the world’s largest concentrated solar plant will become active in the city next months, which could potentially turn Morocco into a “solar superpower” that generates half of its electricity from renewable resources, and might even have enough spare electricity to send up to Europe. 

The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is used to big productions. On the edge of the Sahara desert and the centre of the north African country’s “Ouallywood” film industry it has played host to big-budget location shots in Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, The Living Daylights and even Game of Thrones. Now the trading city, nicknamed the “door of the desert”, is the centre for another blockbuster – a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020 with, it is hoped, some spare to export to Europe. The project is a key plank in Morocco’s ambitions to use its untapped deserts to become a global solar superpower. When the full complex is complete, it will be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world , and the first phase, called Noor 1, will go live next month. The mirror technology it uses is less widespread and more expensive than the photovoltaic panels that are now familiar on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down.

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