Morocco is about to enter the world stage as a solar energy superpower with a massive new concentrated solar power (CSP) plant that’s currently in the works. The desert country is currently powered mostly by imported petroleum, but Morocco is planning to produce half its own energy with renewables by 2020. According to the Guardian, a key to that is the largest CSP plant in the world – currently under construction near the city of Ouarzazate. The first stage of the project, known as Noor 1, is set to go online next month and will produce about 160 megawatts of power through its 800 rows and 500,000 mirrors that follow the sun through the desert sky each day.

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Noor 1 is the first of four such projects near Ouarzazate that will eventually produce about 580 megawatts, or enough to power about 1 million homes. Solar power is expected to provide about a third of the country’s energy by 2020, with the remainder of the 50 percent coming from wind and hydroelectricity. The total bill for the project sits at a hefty $9 billion.

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But Moroccan environment minister Hakima el-Haite told the Guardian the country currently imports 94 percent of its energy through fossil fuels, which puts a heavy toll on the public purse. Earlier this year the country slashed fossil fuel subsidies in an effort to put more cash toward renewables. And he says the country is excited to be a world leader in solar energy. “We are very proud of this project,” he told the Guardian. “I think it is the most important solar plant in the world.”

The second and third phases, Noor 2 and 3, are scheduled to go online by 2017 with the capacity to store energy for as long as eight hours, compared to the three-hour capacity of Noor 1. That capability will mean around-the-clock power for the Sahara and areas surrounding it.

Via the Guardian

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