Sucking up the sun

Quietly getting on with the job is a great way to play the energy game.

Although you probably don’t know Ouarzazate, you may recognise parts of it. The Moroccan city is a popular film location that’s hosted crews from film and TV blockbusters such as Gladiator and Game of Thrones. There may not be any real fire-breathing dragons over Ouarzazate, but the blazing sun does turn up the heat a notch or two. And that’s a good thing.

Morocco is a shining example of an African country focused on renewable energy, especially solar. This month the country will commission two more stages of a four-stage project outside Ouarzazate that will eventually bring online a solar complex the size of Paris. The mega-complex is capitalising on Morocco’s enviable exposure to the sun – approximately 330 days of clear skies every year.

It’s also just one of five such solar technology complexes in the country.

This will correct any misconception that Morocco isn’t serious about solar. But it’s not just about saving polar bears from shrinking ice caps. It’s actually a very smart move to shift from being a net importer of energy to becoming increasingly self-sufficient, and eventually a major player in exporting renewable energy to Europe.

And this is where Morocco has been very strategic. It sits at Africa’s closest point to Europe – Spain is visible across the Straits of Gibraltar – and the Ouarzazate solar complex is employing the latest technology not only in solar power generation, but also energy storage. This is key: it allows the provision of energy long after the sun has gone down.

Not that Morocco is reliant only on the sun for renewable energy. It’s investment in solar energy is mirrored in wind energy and hydroelectric projects. The result has been remarkable.

Until recently, 97% of the country’s energy came from imported fossil fuels. But since the first stage of the Noor complex came online in 2016, Morocco has been steadily plugging more renewable energy projects into the national grid.

In doing so it is making an ambitious move in the energy game. The country aims to produce 42% of its power from renewable energy sources by 2020 and 52% by 2030.

Hot stuff, Morocco.

[This article originally appeared in the publication Fox Bytes and on the mindofafox Growing Foxes app in the week of 7 May 2018. Growing Foxes is a school strategic intelligence programme designed by mindofafox. It is being piloted in a number of leading schools in the UK and South Africa. The app serves to support those students currently engaging with the programme. Click on the logo to find out more]

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