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Morocco aiming to become big solar power player

Sunset in Ait Benhaddou, Morocco

•   Aim to generate 42% of electricity from renewables in 4 years' time
•   Project could potentially reduce oil dependence by 2.5million tonnes
•   Morocco and Portugal signed cooperation agreement on renewables

Morocco has an ambitious plan to generate 42 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020 – and it's backing up targets with strong action. 

Unsurprisingly, for a country with abundant sunshine, solar power is proving to be its preferred means of decarbonisation.

A concentrated effort

The first phase of what is to be the world's largest concentrated solar plant has just been switched on in the south of the country. The final two phases are due to be finished by 2018, with the aiming of providing electricity to one million people. 

The technology works by harnessing thermal energy in salt during the day, when huge parabolic mirrors track the sun and maximise its heat. The salt holds to that heat to be later used to drive steam turbines. 

Freedom for fossil fuels?

Energy independence is a big factor in driving the solar mission. Morocco has previously relied on fossil fuels and imports for 97 per cent of its energy needs, but this project should reduce the amount of oil dependence by two and half million tonnes. 

The push for independence in not solely low-carbon, as the country is exploring its potential for gas as well. But with around 3,000 hours of annual sunshine, the nation has a significant green focus and ambition, aiming to get to a point where it export surplus electricity to Europe.

 

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Making connections

European partnership working is already under way, in fact, with Morocco and Portugal recently signing a memorandum of understanding around renewable energy. The first task in hand will see Portuguese expertise assist in integrating renewables with the electricity grid, but there are loftier goals to take something of a joint leadership role in green energy across Africa. 

There has been a similar move involving French energy firm Engie and state-owned Nereva in Morocco, a partnership which is already working on the huge Tarfaya wind farm on the southern Atlantic coast

Forward-thinking energy companies are clearly seeing huge untapped renewables potential in North and West Africa, with Engie alone expecting to be involved in 5,000 to 6,000 MW of capacity between 2020 and 2025. 

Done right, renewable energy in this region could increase local stability, individual nations' energy sovereignty and increase links between continents. For observers of green energy's progress, this is a part of the world to watch closely. 

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or tweet @EnergySvgTrust for more information.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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interesting post. Thanks for sharing Gary.

Hey there Daniel,

I really appreciate your kind words and feedback here! :)

Have a good one