Saudi’s company wins $2bn Morocco solar power plant

A consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power International has won a €1.7 billion ($2 billion) contract to build two solar power plants totalling 350 megawatts in the southern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate, the Moroccan solar energy agency (MASEN) said in a statement.

The two plants are the second phase of the 500 MW Ouarzazate project, which is part of a government plan to produce 2 gigawatts of solar power by 2020, equivalent to about 38% of Morocco’s current installed generation capacity.

ACWA Power is already building a 160 MW plant in the first stage of the project in the Ouarzazate area.

ACWA’s consortium, which includes Spain’s SENER, had priced its offer at 1.36 Dirhams ($0.15) per Kilowatt (KW) for the first 200 MW plant with parabolic mirror technology, while it priced the plant with solar power tower technology at 1.42 Dirhams per KW.

The plants are scheduled to start generating power in 2017.

To finance the plants, Morocco has secured loans of $519 million from the World Bank, €654 million from German state-owned bank KFW and the rest from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Commission and European Investment Bank.

Facing an electricity demand that rises by an annual 7% and a gaping trade deficit from heavy reliance on fossil fuel imports, Morocco also hopes renewable energy will enable it to export electricity.

The solar development plan should when coupled with another multi-billion dollar wind energy development scheme, reduce Morocco’s annual imports of fossil fuels by 2.5 million tonnes of oil equivalent and prevent emissions of 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.

MASEN is expected to announce the two next solar plants, which would be located in Midelt (central) and Tata (south) towns with an estimated 500 MW each.

The choice of the two towns came after international lenders voiced their refusal to finance projects located in the still non settled Western Sahara.