February 6, 2016

If you have read my posts in the recent past you know that I enjoy writing about technology and sustainability.  I make every effort, as time allows, to track technology and detail advances and discoveries that affect our lives.  I definitely try to “stay close” to all sustainability efforts regardless as to where they occur over our globe.  Let’s very quickly define “sustainability” as:

A state in which the demands placed on the environment can be met without reducing its capacity to allow all people to live well, now and in the future.”

Evidence suggests that we are exceeding and eroding the earth’s carrying capacity, that there are limits to growth on a finite planet.  Effects are interactive, complex, unpredictable and escalating, as we head for a global average temperature rise of more than 2 degrees centigrade over pre-industrial levels.

Sometimes ‘environmental’, ‘social’ and ‘economic’ are termed to be the three pillars of sustainability.  But this is problematic as it suggests they are equivalent and can be traded.  Environmental sustainability is the context within which social and economic life happen. Also, social inequity directly affects environmental viability.

Leading thinkers suggest that to stand any chance of achieving environmental sustainability, businesses need to move from a sense of right-to-exploit the natural environment to a worldview of mutual interdependence and radical eco-innovation.  Many organizations are now taking on this challenge.

One country, Morocco, has taken that definition very seriously and has accomplished a marvelous engineering feat.  OK, with that being the case, just where is Morocco? Morocco lies on the Northwestern portion of the African Continent. The two digital maps below will indicate the exact location for us.



The country of Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than one million Moroccans.

The Noor I (Quarzazate Solar Power Station or OSPS) is located in the Souss-Massa-Drâa area of Morocco, 10 km from Ouarzazate town, in Ghessat rural council area.

It is capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power and covers more than thirty-five (35) soccer fields of desert.  This fact signifies NOOR I as being one of the world’s largest solar thermal power plants.

There are two additional phases, Noor II and Noor III that will come on line with completion in 2030. With NOOR I, NOOR II and NOOR III active, Morocco will be able to generate 580 Mw and supply most of the nation’s power needs.

Morocco currently relies on imported sources for 97 percent of its energy consumption, according to the World Bank, which helped fund the Noor power plant project. Investing in renewable energy will make Morocco less reliant on those imports as well as reduce the nation’s long-term carbon emissions by millions of tons.

“It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”

The digital photograph below will indicate the enormous size of the Saudi-built “footprint” upon which this energy will be derived.  Please keep in mind, this is only phase one of the overall project.   There are eight hundred (800) rows with five hundred thousand (500,000) collector panels in the overall array.  These panels track the sun as it moves from east to west.  The digital after the surface area indicates the basic configuration of the collector panels themselves.


Curvature of Panels

The system at Ouarzazate uses 12-meter-tall [39-foot-tall] parabolic mirrors to focus energy onto a fluid-filled pipeline.  The pipeline’s hot fluid — 393 degrees Celsius (739 degrees Fahrenheit) — is the heat source used to warm the water and make steam. The plant doesn’t stop delivering energy at nighttime or when clouds obscure the sun; heat from the fluid can be stored in a tank of molten salts.”  The facility is designed to provide energy twenty (20) hours per day.  The only down-time will be four hours in a twenty-four hour day.  The Noor II and Noor III plants will have a molten salt storage capacity of seven hours each, whereas Noor I will have a molten salt storage capacity of three hours.

Noor I will use a wet cooling system whereas the latter plants will use a dry cooling system. The water required for the plants will be sourced from the Mansour  Eddabhi dam, located approximately 12km from the project site, and stored in water storage reservoirs with a total capacity of 300,000m³.  Complexities of the overall mechanical system may be seen below.


The specifications for this remarkable project are as follows:



One striking fact—the Ouarzazate Solar System will reduce carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year.  This is the definition of sustainable.

As always, I welcome  your comments.

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