Friday, 25 May 2012

Morocco to start work on 500 MW solar plant in 2012
22 May 2012

(Reuters)-Morocco plans to speed up tender processes for the development of a 2,000 MW solar power plan, starting with the award this year of a first contract for 160 MWs to be generated using concentrated-solar technology (CSP). Mustafa Bakkoury, who chairs the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen), said a winning consortium for that first phase of a 500 MW solar power plant, in the southern region of Ouarzazate, would be announced by the start of summer.

Ouarzazate's 500 MW complex, which should be completed by 2015, is the first in the so-called Moroccan Solar Plan that aims to produce 2 GW of solar power by 2020, which corresponds to 38% of the country's current installed power generation capacity. "Works (on Ouarzazate's first 160 MW phase) will start in the third or fourth quarter of 2012 and we aim to complete the work", Bakkoury told the two-day Solar Maghreb conference in Casablanca. Masen will pick a winner for the 160 MW parabolic trough plant from the three following consortia:

Masen will then launch tenders to build a 50 MW photovoltaic module and CSP towers of at least 50 MWs, both of which in Ouarzazate, Bakkoury said. "We will be moving faster in the launch of Morocco's Solar Plan projects,.. Our initial goal to have 2,000 MWs from solar power by 2020 is still on", he said. Morocco has embarked on one of the world's biggest renewable energy development plans involving solar and wind power. The solar power plan is worth $9 billion in investment and will include five power stations, two of which are located in the disputed Western Sahara.

Facing an electricity demand that rises by an annual 7% and a gaping trade deficit from heavy reliance on fossil fuel imports, Morocco also bets renewable energies would enable it to export electricity to energy-hungry trade partner, the European Union. Coupled with a wind power development scheme, the solar development plan should reduce Morocco's annual imports of fossil fuels by 2.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent and prevent emissions of 9 million tonnes of CO₂.

Morocco aims to export surplus electricity to Europe via Spain, where it has a power market trading licence that allows it to sell electricity. "We expect energy demand to double by 2020 and then to quadruple by 2030", said Taoufik Laabi, head of planning and strategy at power utility ONE. He noted that the percentage of solar-generated electricity that will be exported would depend on "availability of surpluses".

High Costs
Pending a drop in the high production costs of solar plants, the Moroccan government will cover any gap between the cost of producing solar electricity and the price ONE pays to buy the electricity from Masen, said Masen's Bakkoury. "The costs are high but we think they will be declining going forward,.. Developing solar power is an irreversible choice for us", said Bakkoury. "I hope we will not rely on public funding for too long", he added.