Designed as part of the Moroccan Solar Plan, the Ouarzazate solar power complex is continuously expanding. Its Phase III is now under way, with commissioning due end 2017.
Pillars awaiting their reflectors, others already complete, a central tower… all signs that the Noor III plant is taking shape at Ouarzazate, in a region that sees more than 300 days of sunshine a year. While Noor I has been in operation since February, 2016, Noor II, the construction of which began in 2015, will come online at the end of 2017, together with Noor III, which was started at the same time.
Located in the immediate vicinity of the solar power complex’s Phases I and II, the extension marks a new development in comparison with its predecessors.
Noor I and II use parabolic mirrors in a CSP (Concentrated Solar Power) system. Noor III will also use a CSP system but with the addition of a solar tower. This third phase will feature 7400 mirrors, or heliostats, of 178 m² each (the size of a tennis court) that follow the sun like a sunflower, directing its rays, through their own pillars, onto a 243 metre-high central receiving tower that dominates the site.
The aim of CSP is to concentrate the sun’s rays onto a focal point. The heat thus generated is used to heat demineralized water to make steam in a generation room. The steam drives a turbine, which produces electricity. «It works just like a standard power station, except that the sun replaces the fossil fuels,» says Rachid Bayed, project director at Masen.
Noor III is due to be operational end 2017 (photo F.Dubessy)
The advantage of CSP over photovoltaic (PV) systems is the ability to store the energy produced. Tanks containing molten salts (a liquid mixture of sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate) store the energy rather like a Thermos flask. While Noor I (160MW parabolic trough CSP plant) could store the energy produced for three hours, and Noor II (200 MW parabolic trough CSP plant) for seven hours, the solar tower CSP Noor III will be able to stock the energy it produces for eight hours.
«There are two processes functioning in tandem: energy production for storage and energy production for the electric grid,» explains Mustapha Sellam, the Noor-Ouarzazate site manager in charge of operations and maintenance.
Each heliostat is the size of a tennis court (photo F.Dubessy)
The European Union, via the Neighbourhood Investment Facility (NIF), has donated €106.5M to the first three phases of the project. The European Investment Bank (EIB), the lead European financier for Noor I and II, has lent €217.5M. With funds from the French development agency AFD and the German development bank Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KFW), European financing has reached €1.2bn, 60% of the total project amount.
And the Noor story will continue. After Noor III, the next investments will focus on Noor Tata (CSP + PV), Noor Laâyoune (PV), Noor Midelt (CSP + PV), Noor Boujdour (PV) and, of course, Noor IV Ouarzazate (70MW, photovoltaic).