Morocco’s Noor 1 solar project is changing the way an entire nation generates power. Historically, Moroccan’s have depended on imported fossil fuels for 97 percent of their energy needs. However, this is now changing. Morocco has launched the biggest solar power project in the world. It will be constructed in three phases; the first phase, Noor 1, is already operational.
Noor 1 is a unique type of solar. It utilizes concentrated solar power (CSP) and is the first utility-scale CSP energy complex. The difference between CSP and the more typical photovoltaic panels is that CSP can continue to generate three hours of additional power after dark.
Here’s how it works: hundreds of mirrors focus the sun’s energy to heat a transfer fluid that is used to produce steam that drives turbines that generate electricity. The transfer fluid can also be used to heat molten salts stored in large storage tanks on site. The salt stays hot enough to generate steam even after the sun has gone down (source).
Noor 1 Solar Technology
The Noor 1 solar project has 160 megawatt capacity. Soon, Noor 2 and 3 will create an additional 350 megawatt capacity. This total of over 500 megawatts is expected to be functional by 2018. The complete capacity will account for 42 percent of Morocco’s aggregate power generation, while providing power to one million homes. Additionally, it will reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year, or 17.5 million tons over 25 years (source).
The Noor CSP complex generates its power from the Sahara Desert, outside the city of Quarzazate. The government expects that all of the country’s future energy needs will be met entirely by renewables. Once this occurs, Morocco can explore exporting energy to Europe.
The desert is a highly valuable resource for capturing the sun’s energy. Consequently, scientists suspect the Noor project will become a model for other nations that border similar terrain.
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