Skip to Content

Morocco’s Massive Desert Solar Project Starts Up

Africa is becoming a test bed for solar power, on scales both large and small.
February 8, 2016

Overcoming a series of delays, Morocco started up its Noor I solar project on February 4, marking what many observers call a new era for solar power in North Africa.

Located at the edge of Sahara Desert about 120 miles from Marrakesh, Noor I is a 160-megawatt concentrated-solar plant that uses half a million parabolic mirrors to focus sunlight to heat liquid that’s used to create steam to power turbines.

The project, which cost nearly $2 billion, was originally envisioned as part of the Desertec plan to build similar plants across the Sahara and export the electricity to Europe. But it collapsed in 2013 when the major European backers pulled out. Noor I is the first of three phases under a plan to create a massive solar complex, supplying 580 megawatts of solar capacity, that could be the biggest in the world when completed. It’s part of Morocco’s ambition to generate 42 percent of its power from wind and solar energy by 2020.

Although 600 million people across Africa lack access to reliable electricity, the continent is becoming “a testing ground for cutting-edge solar power,” according to Quartz—mostly in the form of small, distributed systems that supply lighting and some electricity to individual households. A report from the Overseas Development Institute, in the United Kingdom, finds that small-scale solar could supply affordable power to most Africans by 2030, while reducing the use of dirty diesel generators across the continent.

Solar mirrors at the Noor 1 power plant, near the central Moroccan town of Ouarzazate.

(Sources: MAP, Quartz)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.