To get a feel for Morocco's green energy potential, simply stand beneath the sun on the blistering sands of the Sahara Desert or pay a visit to the windswept town of Essaouira, a popular seaside resort on the Atlantic coast, about a 100 miles west of the storied city of Marrakech. In both places, the former French colony's solar and wind power possibilities are quite obvious.
Thanks to its geography, sitting at the crossroads between Africa, Europe and the Middle East, Morocco has become a center of efforts to ramp up alternative energy production, something that will benefit both Europe and the energy-starved nation, which currently imports 96 percent of its energy (it's the only North African country with no oil production of its own).
The Moroccan government, which has established a national fund for developing renewable power and energy efficiency, has launched a US$9 billion project that involves building five solar power generation sites across the country to meet its goal of producing 2,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020, or what will be roughly 20 percent of the country's electricity consumption.
This undertaking is of particular interest to Spain, its neighbor just across the Strait of Gibraltar. Spanish companies, like Abengoa SA (MCE:ABG), which is already building solar facilities in Morocco, are expected to be fierce bidders for construction contracts. The first round of bidding will start late this month for building and supplying the first of the five planned concentrating solar power (CSP) stations, a 500-megawatt plant in Ouarzazate, a town in southern Morocco. A number of German companies, including Siemens (NYSE:SI) and RWE AG (OTC:RWEOY), both already actively involved in Morrocan projects, could also vie for a piece of the action.
That's not the only news: The nation's largest wind farm, a 140 MW facility in Tangier, is expected to be completed by the end of the year; Germany is currently working with Morocco to develop a water-desalination plant and solar-powered electricity generators; and the government of Japan recently announced it will donate $7.4 million to Morocco to fund a 1 MW photovoltaic plant in the city of Assa-Zag.
Morocco's Center for Renewable Energies Development (CDER) says the country, which receives some 3,000 hours of sunshine every year, can easily reach its solar energy goals. And studies by the agency concluded that Morocco also has the potential to generate between 4,000 and 7,000 MW of power from the wind between now and 2020, a target that would require as much as $14 billion in investment.
With the help of experienced foreign green energy outfits, the country appears well on the way to brighter future.
Image courtesy of Joao Maximo
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