Open only a few months at most on state lands, ten kilometers from Ouarzazate airport and near the desert village of Tiffoultoute in a region of Morocco better known as stage settings for movies and shows from Gladiator to Prison Break.

The plant is about equidistance from Zagora and Marrakesh. A roadway lined with street lighting from photovoltaic panels announces one is near the start of NOOR I occupying over sixty hectares.

Financed in part by the African and World Banks and the European Union, Noor I captures solar energy through the use of curved Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) parabolic mirrors that follow the sun rather than the comparatively less expensive photovoltaic panels. The panels may form the basis for the last plant, Noor IV that with Noor II and III will be constructed over the next few years.

The solar field — linear concentrators of CSPs — captures the solar energy, heating HTF fluid, which ideally does not need to be replaced for about a quarter of a century.  The heat raises the temperature of water, which, as steam, becomes electricity through turbines. Water is piped in from a local dam and reservoir, Mansour Eddahbi and through a water pretreatment center. The mirrors allow for the storage of heat in molten salt for up to three hours, unlike the photovoltaic, which, in small kit form, is used in farming areas to electrify homes.  The heat is then used to create steam to keep the turbines running

Not yet running at full power, Noor 1 will be able to generate 160 megawatts of electricity with a projected annual production of about 500 gigawatts expected to satisfy the consumption needs of up to 600,000 inhabitants in southern Morocco.  Future plants are expected to store the heat up to seven to eight hours.

Materials comprising the plant come from United States, Morocco, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, and South Korea.

Morocco Noor CSP

Noor I is an important part of the Vision 2020 or 2030 plan to have Morocco relying upon clean and sustainable energy that can be sold to European nations and power residences and industries that strengthen Morocco’s economy and society. It is projected to employ thousands of Moroccans. About its only downside is that some of its materials may be produced in less than environmentally friendly ways and its environmental impact, if anything, is yet to be discovered.

By Colette Apelian,