Located on the very north west of Africa, just a narrow Strait of Gibraltar, Morocco’s dry and sandy terrain has made it a leader in solar energy production. As a relatively developed country in its own right, Morocco is electrified and at the start of the 21st century, more than 50% of all electricity was produced by burning fossil fuels. However, the authorities in Morocco estimated that their energy needs will grow with the population and the economy, so they have made concerted attempts to diversify their energy sources. The crown jewel of these efforts came in the form of Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, a massive complex of solar power collectors. Ouarzazate Solar Power Station progresses in phases, separate installations named Noor 1 through 3.
Noor 1 is a concentrated solar power facility with the total capacity of 160 MW. The specific design is called a parabolic trough, with mirrors heating up the molten salt in the pipes to up to 400C (750F). What it means is that it collects the solar power and transforms it into heat which is then used to power steam turbines to produce electricity. Even though this method is more expensive than regular photovoltaic panels, it enables the storage of energy for the night. In the case of Noor 1, energy can be stored up to 3 hours.
Noor 2 is currently being built adjacent to Noor 1. Like Noor 1, it uses the same parabolic trough, but unlike it, it uses dry cooling to preserve water in the arid area it is located in. It will also have the ability to conserve energy for longer than Noor 1, around 7 hours. The capacity of Noor 2 is projected to be 200MW, and became operational by the end of 2017.
The third phase of the project is also currently being built. It is a solar tower type of complex, with the ability to store energy for 8 hours after sundown. It will add another 150MW to the complex.
With a planned total of 580MW, this is going to be the biggest single solar installation in the world. The main aim of this project is to cover the growing needs of Morocco. However, any excess electricity is ready to be exported to Europe, earning Morocco money, just as the original plan intended.