QUARZAZARTE, Morocco – At the foot of the snow-covered Atlas Mountains, the sun beats down on the vast plateau of the Moroccan high desert as hundreds of curved mirrors reflect the light at the vast Masen Noor Power Station. The sunny day is in contrast with the cloudy, stormy weather when I first visited the plant in 2018. The plant has also grown and Noor IV is now commissioned in addition to Noor I, Noor II and Noor III. The plant is close to the Moroccan city of Quarzazarte, the gateway to the Sahara Desert.

“We cannot use this land within these conditions for agriculture or other means so it’s one of the ways to create an added value with a land like this,” Rachid Bayed, Director of Operations at Masen, the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy, told New Europe on 27 January. “Potentially there are several other locations in which can develop later on new projects in renewable energy,” he added.

“Noor I and Noor 2 have the same technology. There are two differences. The start capacity is not the same. Noor II is 200 MW, Noor I is only 160 MW. In terms of storage capacity, Noor II is 7 hours in comparison with Noor I, which is 3 hours,” he said, adding that the technology used is concentrated solar power (CSP) using parabolic trough. “With CSP we are producing heat, that is producing steam, that allows to produce electricity,” he said. With PV (Photovoltaics), which is Noor IV for example, we’re producing directly electricity from the solar radiation,” he added.

Noor III is concentrated as well but instead of ranks of mirrors it captures and stores the sun’s energy with a single large tower. “The concentration is done on the receiver that is on the top of the tower. All the mirrors around the tower are reflecting the solar radiation and this reflection is concentrated on the receiver where we can have very high temperature and where we can produce electricity,” Bayed said, pointing at the impressive tower nearby. The tower is also causing reflections in the sky over the Atlas Mountains, which is an other-worldly sight.

Bayed said equipment must be designed for the environmental conditions in countries for which it is going to be used. Masen generates clean electricity through integrated renewable energy projects. Harnessing these resources aims at making the best use of solar, wind and hydraulic, initially, and any other type of renewable energy that could be relevant to the country, he said, adding that Masen achieves this by choosing appropriate technology for the needs identified. “Renewables offer a large possibility of technologies. We can use solar resources, we can use water resources, we can use wind as well as wave and biomass. So, the question is to define each time we need the right projects for the right place within the right resources,” Bayed said.

The north African country wants to increase the share of renewables in its installed power generation mix to 42% by next year. Morocco also plans to have 52% of electricity generated from renewable energy by 2030, including solar, wind and hydro. In hydro, there was 1770 MW of installed capacity in 2018 and 2000 MW minimum installed capacity by 2020. In wind power, about 1215 MW of installed capacity in 2018 and 2000 MW installed capacity by 2020. In solar power, about 700 MW of installed capacity in 2018 and 2000 MW of installed capacity by 2020.

Bayed said Morocco is engaged for the preservation of the environment. “There are factors that lead to the creation of such a big plant. There is also a question of needs that are growing very fast and continue from 2015 and for sure there is technology that could be used to create a value behind there resources that are available, solar resources, water resources, hydropower production,” he said.

Meanwhile, Masen’s International Development and Cooperation Director Ali Zerouali told New Europe Morocco has many requests from African countries to work with them for the development of renewable energy in their countries.

Moreover, he stressed that Morocco wants to export renewable energy to Europe. “The thing is to physically export or import electricity under the frame of green cross-border corporate PPAs (Power Purchase Agreements), meaning a private developer in any of the five countries – Portugal, Spain, France and Germany and Morocco – can sell electricity from renewable energy to any big off-taker in these five countries,” Zerouali said.

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