Nov 06 2009
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Solar energy: Morocco's bright and green idea
The $9 billion project targets creating capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020, and aims to reduce the kingdom's reliance on imports of electricity, oil and gas, which in 2007 accounted for 96% of Morocco's power.
The "massive project" will combine economic and social development with environmental protection and efforts to tackle climate change, according to Minister of Energy and Mining Amina Benkhadra, who unveiled the project on Monday (November 2nd).
King Mohammed VI and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was in Morocco for the 6th Forum for the Future, attended the project's opening ceremony.
The targeted capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020 will equal 38% of the installed power of three separate sub-projects by 2008 and 14% of the nation's total electric power by 2020. By that time, solar power could meet 10% of Morocco's demand for electricity. The overall project will be implemented at five sites with a combined surface area of 10,000 hectares.
The first of the sub-projects is Morocco's first photovoltaic power plant, which was built in Tit Mellil in 2007. It has a capacity of around 50 KW.
In 2008, work began on the second sub-project, a solar and thermal plant in Ain Beni Mathar. This combined cycle plant, which will have a capacity of 472 MW, including 20 MW from solar energy, is still under construction.
A third sub-project consists of solar water heating panels, 200,000 square meters of which were installed in 2007. The target for 2012 is to raise the total to 400,000 square meters.
To ensure that these goals are achieved, the project will involve the introduction of solar energy programmes at colleges of engineering and universities, as well as training for technicians.
Officials say the project will be financed by domestic and foreign funds from both public and private sources, and implemented through public-private partnerships. The agreements governing the project will be signed with the Moroccan state and national and local authorities.
Moroccan officials say their country has a number of advantages that should ensure the achievement of the project's main goals, including 5 kWh per square metre per day of solar radiation and 3,000 hours of sunshine per year.
These advantages could add up to a more environmentally-friendly Morocco.
"The project sends a very clear message in the current situation, which is dominated by the need to face up to the challenges of climate change," said Finance Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, adding that "Morocco is determined to protect the environment in all its future projects."
This view is shared by the director of the state electricity board, Ali Fassi Fihri, who said that the project will not only reduce Morocco's dependence on foreign energy sources, but will also use "clean" technology - a prerequisite for sustainable development.
By Siham Ali
© Magharebia.com 2009
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