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Morocco's Solar Power Mega-Project ( 102

An anonymous reader writes: Morocco, located along the northwestern African coast, is in prime position to take advantage of solar technology, and they've committed to one of the biggest such projects in the world. The city of Ouarzazate will host "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." It will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. "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 first phase of the project, called Noor 1, comprises 500,000 solar mirrors that track the sun throughout the day, with a maximum capacity of 160MW. When the full project finishes, it will be able to generate up to 580MW. "Each parabolic mirror is 12 meters high and focused on a steel pipeline carrying a 'heat transfer solution' (HTF) that is warmed to 393C as it snakes along the trough before coiling into a heat engine. There, it is mixed with water to create steam that turns energy-generating turbines."
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Morocco's Solar Power Mega-Project

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  • Coal or nuclear, or GTFO!
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's Morocco, not UK. They ideally situated for solar plants like that.

      • It's Morocco, not UK. They ideally situated for solar plants like that.

        Oh heck, I was being sarcastic. I'm really a nuc or solar/wind guy at heart. Coal? It's a killer.

      • They ideally situated for solar plants like that.

        Am I the only one that thinks the combination of precision mirrors/optics and Saharan sand storms might not be a good combination?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Ouarzazate is on the outer reaches of the Sahara. In fact, Morocco barely contains any Sahara at all, that's over on the Algerian side.

          The desert around Ouarzazate is mostly rocky, and it takes several hours in a 4x4 to get to the sandy Sahara people are familiar with.

        • Re:Wat? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @07:20AM (#50808467) Journal

          Morocco: north west coast of africa. Dominant wind direction: west.
          How often is there a sand storm anyway? Sandstorms are more a concern because they darken the sky then because of potential damage.

        • No, you're not. Morocco is probably better off buying a few nuke plants.

      • Yes, but Morrocan government under Hassan II entirely destroyed the country's educative system in the 80', after the massive investments in education of the 50's and 60's produced a high number of educated leftists...
        Math levels are quite good for the selected few, but a big engineering project can't rely only on maths.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    just for context, 580 MW is the power output of a single medium-sized natural gas power plant. I'm a big fan of solar, and the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and all that, but they've got a long way to go to make a dent in regional energy needs.

    also, $9B for 580 MW comes out to ~$15/W, which is a pretty steep capex (but with hopefully minimal opex due to not needing fuel). Compare to non-thermal PV solar, with installed capex cost of say $2/W and no/fewer moving parts (so les opex, al

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Monday October 26, 2015 @10:28PM (#50807073) Journal
      AC a "medium-sized natural gas power plant." needs gas. Most nations like to export their own "natural gas" like products for value added hard currency rather than just burning it up locally.
      Nations are finally waking up to the decades of petrodollar loans and exchange rates. []
      Long term domestic math on projects might reflect past issues with huge loans, crushing hard currency interest payments and needed support for a "medium-sized natural gas power plant".
    • by thePig ( 964303 ) <> on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @12:58AM (#50807485) Journal

      Not that they wouldn't have thought about it, but wouldn't it have been better in that case to make it 50:50 PV:Solar Thermal or so?
      The PV provides the electricity for the day time use, while Solar Thermal just stores the energy in molten salt. In the night, electricity is taken from the molten salt.
      Isn't the price difference per watt is so high that it makes sense to have PV along with it?

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        Are you suggesting that they should remove some reflector mirrors and replace them with PV panels? Mixing technologies within a single site is poor economics in general, but with solar thermal it is particularly bad.

        In general, mixing different technologies doubles the cost, makes maintenance harder, and removes the economy of scale. For example, they would need two different types of power infrastructure on one site. But in particular with solar thermal: more mirrors means more heat is focused onto the

        • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )


          Reading again, you meant changing one of the 4 sites to PV. Sorry. That approach wouldn't impact the efficiency of one of the solar thermal towers. But it would still pose the engineering cost problems.

          I do wonder what the limitation is that makes it better to build 4 solar thermal plants rather than one big one. Maybe it can't handle that much heat? Maybe maintenance so they can shut one down and the others still function? Maybe aiming the mirrors over a larger distance is hard? Hmm...

  • It is in an environment which will be naturally tough on the system. While capex is crazy high it will be interesting to see how it stacks up cost wise over a 50 year life span. It may be the as we get better at building these sytems and production infrastructure scales that this type of plant could deliver a decent cost per watt.

    • I'm thinking that innovations in electrostatic dust control developed here may have applications for Lunar colonies...

    • "It is in an environment which will be naturally tough on the system"

      That's an understatment and a half.

      I'd give it a decade or less before the thermal cycling (deserts get _cold_ at night, even equatorial ones) results in astronomical maintenance costs and kills the project. Going from 300+C daytime to more or less zero every day is going to be hell on the mirrors and focal points and that's before weather factors are factored in.

      • Actually the daily temperature range in Ouarzazate isn't that great The coldest the air temp gets is 5c in January and the max air temp is 35c in July. In any given month the differential doesn't get above about 15C. I don't think the there should be temperature issues outside the norm that this type of installation would see anywhere in the world.

        The site also has really really low rainfall - 40mm in a month is a huge month. So there should be limited issues from water and hence water marking on the mi

        • 0C or 5C or even 35C is a minor variation compared to the 300+C at the mirror focal point. It's that area which will be subjected to the greatest thermal cycling stresses and will break down fastest if allowed to cool overnight.

          Dirty mirrrors/water marking are absolutely minor concerns - the first is usually taken care of with in desert environments with an integral automated brush which sweeps the mirror daily (these have been used on solar farms for 20+ years) and the second would affect less than 1% of t

  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Tuesday October 27, 2015 @02:54AM (#50807765)

    Morocco, located along the northwestern African coast

    I'm guessing that anyone who has to be told where Morocco is will also need to be told where the northwestern African coast is. :p

  • Sounds pretty cool! Except... do we really want something like Archimedes left in Moroccan hands? I wouldn't even want the Brotherhood in sole control of it!

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