The world’s richest veins of solar energy potential lie in Africa, and Morocco, with the help of the World Bank, is beginning to tap into it.
Yesterday, the World Bank approved a US$297 million loan to finance the country’s Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Plant Project. The first deployment phase will have a 500-megawatt (MW) capacity; 2000 MW will be available by 2020.
The funds were made available under the bank’s Middle East and North Africa Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) scale-up program. The first $200 million of the loan is from the bank's development program, and the remainder is from a fund intended to promote clean energy.
Similar sized projects in the United States have cost a lot more to build. BrightSource Energy’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah project was the recipient of a $1.6 billion Department of Energy loan guarantee in April.
The DOE announced $1.187 billion in loan guarantees for the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch that same month.
However, when complete, Morocco’s Ouarzazate project will surpass Terra-Gen Power’s Alta Wind Energy Center in Kern County, California, which is currently the U.S’s biggest project. Terra-Gen’s final capacity is planned to be around 1,550 MW, but was originally intended to be a a 3,000 MW "largest ever" mega solar site.
Earlier this month, SmartPlanet's Mark Halper wrote on the Desertec Industrial Initiative, which he says "is intended to deliver 15% of Europe's electricity by 2050 from solar and other types of plants scattered across N. Africa and the Middle East."
If Terra-Gen is any indication, it's possible that the Desertec consortium will be scaled down from its overarching goal. Mark Halpin e-mailed me his insights stating that thetough world economy, geopolitics, costs, tricky local customers, suspicions of resource exploitation, and other factors could stunt its growth.