The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is the place that is on the edge of the Sahara desert where Hollywood movies like Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator, and the TV series Game of Throne were filmed. The city is about to become the home of a solar power mega-plant. According to the World Bank, the plant will supply electricity to 1.1 million of Moroccans by 2018.
African Development Bank stated that this plant will be world’s largest concentrated solar power plant in the world once the first phase is complete. The potential for solar power in the desert has been a subject of debate for a very long time. After the Chernobyl accident of 1986, German physicist Gerhard Knies, estimated that the world’s deserts receive enough energy in a few hours to provide for humanity’s power needs for an entire year. The only hurdle is to find a way to capture the energy and transport it to the cities and to the villages
The plant will use a technology that is pricier than the photovoltaic panels you see on roofs, but it will continuously produce power, even at night and on cloudy days. The technology uses mirrors that glitter across the skyline and heat up a liquid, which is mixed with water and reaches a temperature close to 400 degrees Celsius. This will produce steam which will drive a turbine that will generate electrical power. Upon completion, the plant will have a capacity of 580MW of electricity, enough to supply power to 1.1 million homes. Today, Morocco is very exposed to fossil fuel’s fluctuating prices. According to the environment minister, Hakima el-Haite, the kingdom imports 94% of its energy as fossil fuels.
The project is scheduled for completion in 2020, and the Moroccan authorities have the ambition to export solar energy to neighboring countries. “We believe that it’s possible to export energy to Europe but first we would have to build the interconnectors which don’t yet exist,” said Maha el-Kadiri, a Moroccan solar energy agency spokeswoman. “Specifically, we would have to build interconnections, which would not go through the existing one in Spain, and then start exporting,” he added.