Rows of curved mirrors capture solar energy
Image caption Rows of curved mirrors capture solar power

A giant plant employing power from the Sun to energy a Moroccan city at evening will open next month.

The solar thermal plant at Ouarzazate will harness the Sun’s warmth to melt salt, which will hold its heat to power a steam turbine in the evening.

The initial phase will produce for three hours after dark the last stage aims to provide power 20 hours a day.

It is part of Morocco’s pledge to get 42% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

The UN has praised Morocco for the level of its ambition. The UK, a considerably richer nation, is aiming for 30% by the identical date.

The Saudi-constructed Ouarzazate solar thermal plant will be one of the world’s most significant when it is total. The mirrors will cover the exact same area as the country’s capital, Rabat.

Futuristic complex

Paddy Padmanathan of Saudi-owned ACWA Power, which is operating the thermal project, mentioned: “Whether or not you are an engineer or not, any passer-by is basically stunned by it.

“You have 35 soccer fields of massive parabolic mirrors pointed to the sky which are moveable so they will track the Sun all through the day.”

The developers say phase one of the futuristic complicated will bring power to a million folks.

The complex stands on the edge of a gritty, flat, rust-red desert, with the snow-clad Atlas mountains towering to the North.

It is portion of a vision from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to turn his country into a renewable power powerhouse.

Image caption Melted salt inside this tank holds heat into the evening

The country has been 98% dependent on imported fossil fuels, but the king was persuaded of the vast capacity of Atlantic wind, mountain hydro energy and scorching Saharan sun.

The king’s plans are becoming enacted by atmosphere minister Hakima el Haite.

She told me: “We are convinced that climate adjust is an opportunity for our country.”

As part of its national commitment to the Paris climate conference, Morocco has pledged to decrease CO2 emissions 32% under organization-as-usual by 2030, conditional on help to attain the renewables target.

At present Morocco imports electricity from Spain, but engineers hope that will not last long.

Paddy Padmanathan predicted: “If Morocco is in a position to create electricity at seven, eight cents per kilowatt – really feasible – it will have thousands of megawatts excess.

“It really is obvious this country should be capable to export into Europe and it will. And it will not want to do something at all… it requirements to do is just sit there since Europe will commence to require it.”

‘True revolution’

Morocco’s previously useless slice of the Sahara is proving a blessing for solar energy. Solar thermal technologies only performs in hot sunny nations. The value is falling, and its developing capacity to store power is arousing interest.

The cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is falling considerably quicker but the International Energy Agency expects them each to play a element in an power revolution which is most likely to see solar as the dominant source of electricity globally by 2050.

Everywhere solar costs are tumbling. Thierry Lepercq, CEO of the Paris-based Solaire Direct, said (controversially) that large-scale ground-mounted solar could already be built without having subsidy even in a nation like in the UK.

“Solar is a true revolution – that’s the way we define it,” he stated. “The $ 50 mark (per megawatt hour) is now being crossed and prices are going down.

“The lengthy-term choice-creating that is prevalent in the power globe is getting disrupted so you are surely going to see some coal projects coming to fruition in the next couple of years primarily based on prior decisions but what is specific right now is that in all the boards of directors of power organizations, those factors are getting fundamentally reassessed.”

It is, he said, a moment in history.

Roger Harrabin visited Morocco for his series Altering Climate on Radio four on Monday at 8pm – then on BBC iPlayer. Full interviews for the series are on the Open University’s site

Adhere to Roger on Twitter

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