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Morocco poised to become a solar superpower by 2020 with launch of desert mega-project...


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This is happening very quickly.

The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is used to big productions. On the edge of the Sahara desert and the centre of the north African country’s “Ouallywood” film industry it has played host to big-budget location shots in Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, The Living Daylights and even Game of Thrones.

Now the trading city, nicknamed the “door of the desert”, is the centre for another blockbuster – a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco’s electricity from renewables by 2020 with, it is hoped, some spare to export to Europe. The project is a key plank in Morocco’s ambitions to use its untapped deserts to become a global solar superpower.

The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is the set of numerous movies. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the GuardianWhen the full complex is complete, it will be the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in the world , and the first phase, called Noor 1, will go live next month. The mirror technology it uses is less widespread and more expensive than the photovoltaic panels that are now familiar on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down.

The potential for solar power from the desert has been known for decades. In the days after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 the German particle physicist Gerhard Knies, calculated that the world’s deserts receive enough energy in a few hours to provide for humanity’s power needs for a whole year. The challenge though, has been capturing that energy and transporting it to the population centres where it is required.

As engineers put the finishing touches to Noor 1, its 500,000 crescent-shaped solar mirrors glitter across the desert skyline. The 800 rows follow the sun as it tracks across the heavens, whirring quietly every few minutes as their shadows slip further east.

Top Reddit comment:

This reminds me of Frank Shuman. In the early 1900s Frank Shuman created a massive solar powered system in Maadi, Egypt that used the sun to heat up water pipes to produce steam and irrigated the Sahara desert. He was en route to create the first fully functional completely solar community and redefine the geography of that region. He calculated that his solar power plants, if deployed in an area of the Sahara desert only 150miles on a side, could supply as much power as consumed by all the industries of the world. Unfortunately, all his materials were stripped for weapons for WWI, and his plans and dreams were ended before they had a chance to change the world.

Frank Shuman - Wikipedia

The most interesting side effect of his solar powered irrigation plant was that it caused the price of solar energy to drop so much that it became significantly cheaper than coal. The full story can be heard from Neil DeGrasse Tyson in this Cosmos video. The tale of Mr. Shumans solar plants is from minute 31:00 - 34:10.

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