Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa are embracing solar power to take advantage of the copious amount of sunlight they receive. Recently the Moroccan Agency For Solar Energy (MASEN) announced that they are “very confident” of securing the investment needed to build vast solar power plants in the country’s southern desert regions. The country is on its way to become a world-class solar energy producer, and it plans to harvest 14% of its energy from the sun by 2020.
Speaking to reporters, at a conference in Marrakesh, Deputy Energy Minister Mohammed Zniber said: “Our target is that in 2020, 42% of our power supply will come from renewable energy, including 14% from solar. At the moment we have only one solar installation, in the east of Morocco, at Ain Beni Mathar, with an installed capacity of 20 megawatts.”
However if the country receives the investment it is pursuing, Zniber predicts that Morocco will be able to build five new solar plants over the next eight years, with a combined production capacity of 2,000 megawatts and an estimated cost of $9,000,000. “We are sure that a lot of investors will be interested and that we can find the money for these projects. We are very confident about that,” he added.
Like many rapidly developing countries around the world, Morocco is experiencing a surge in energy demand in 2012 due to an ever-growing population. In fact, the country’s power consumption is expected to rise by 10% 2012 – up from 6.5% in recent years. It also has little choice, since Morocco has no oil reserves to fall back on.
The country’s current pilot project at Ain Beni Mathar is a hybrid solar and gas plant, but the new plants will be solely solar powered. The first will be built near the desert frontier town of Ouarzazate and will have a 500 megawatt production capacity when it is completed in 2015. “This is the biggest project of its kind in the world,” said Obaid Amrane, from the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN).