Official ceremony for the opening of the NOOR I solar complex in Morocco

Solar panels

Solar panels of the solar thermal power plant NOOR I. Photo: KfW-Bildarchiv

The Noor (Arabic for light) I power plant in the world's largest solar thermal energy park was opened on 4 February in Morocco to great media attention. In the south of the country, near the city of Ouarzazate, the first section of the solar complex was connected to the grid in the presence of Moroccan King Mohammed VI and the French Environment Minister Ségolène Royal. The deployment of this technology paves the way for improved climate change mitigation and low-carbon power generation worldwide.

The giant facility can even be seen from space. On a surface area of 450 hectares, which corresponds to approx. 650 football pitches, 537,000 parabolic mirrors direct the sun's rays onto oil-filled pipes. The heating conducting oil is warmed up to 400 °C in a closed circulation system and produces sustainable energy through a steam turbine and a generator. By using parabolic trough technology with salt storage, the project is also promoting the market introduction of a future-oriented technology for global climate change mitigation.

The German Federal Environment Ministry is helping finance the Noor I power plant with EUR 15 million through its International Climate Initiative (IKI). The power plant will generate 370 gigawatts of electrical energy and reduce CO2 emissions by 230,00 tonnes each year. The solar tower power plant Noor III is also being supported by IKI with EUR 28 million in funding. It is currently under construction and will generate 100 to 150 megawatts (MW). In addition, an IKI subsidy for the project "New Solar Thermal Power Plant in Ouarzazate under Moroccan Solar Plan" helped mobilise low-interest loans amounting to EUR 324 million for the entire solar complex. These funds will be processed through KfW Development Bank. The German support is being carried out in close coordination with other participating donors such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, the French development bank (AfD) and the European Commission.

The construction of the Ouarzazate solar complex is part of the Moroccan Solar Plan adopted in 2009. The Plan aims to meet 42 per cent of the national energy demand through renewable energies by 2020 and will be implemented by the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), which was established for this purpose.

In addition to the financial components, Germany is supporting the Moroccan Government with policy and technical advice for the implementation of its Solar Plan. An additional EUR 8 million will boost knowledge and competencies in the area of climate-friendly solar technologies in Moroccan companies, research institutions and in the education and employment sector through three components: promotion of businesses, vocational education and solar research. Focus is also placed on macroeconomic modelling for climate-friendly energy planning. The various components will be implemented together with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

With its ambitious Solar Plan, Morocco is a pioneer in the expansion of renewable energies and is bringing the energy transition a step further with the launch of the solar thermal power plant in North Africa. This will motivate the development of other solar projects in the sunniest countries on the continent.