A look at the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant

Located just south of Spain, on the northwestern tip of Africa, is Morocco. The country has recently started developments that will help make them the center of the clean energy movement; they are in the process of opening the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant.

What is concentrated solar power?

The solar panels you might see on top of your neighbor’s house are photovoltaic panels. They absorb energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. Concentrated solar power, however, uses a series of precisely aligned mirrors to reflect the sun and heat up a liquid that will produce steam to drive a turbine. Unlike traditional solar panels this process keeps the liquid hot enough to keep generating electricity hours into the night and even on cloudy days. When the power station comes fully online in 2018 it will generate nearly 500 megawatts of energy (the largest concentrated solar power plant in the United States currently generates about 392 MW). This will provide electricity to 1.1 million people in Morocco and reduce annual carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year.

How big is big?

Solar Power Plant

The new solar power plant will cover 30 square kilometers near the edge of the Sahara Desert. It will help give immediate power to the surrounding towns and cities, solving outages that could keep the lights off or, in extreme cases, cause hospital equipment to malfunction. The country currently relies on 97% of its energy needs to be met by foreign fossil fuels. With this power plant, and other plans for additional clean energy facilities, Morocco hopes to meet up to 42% of its own power demands by 2020.

What does this mean for the future?

Solar and Wind Power

Morocco’s dedication to leaving fossil fuels behind has made them a beacon for clean energy. So much so that the United Nations has selected the country to host their climate change conference later this year in November. This movement could help bring additional power stations to the rest of the continent, greatly helping out the approximate 76% of people in sub-Saharan Africa who don’t have access to electricity.

Technology and research in this field is a current priority in Silicon Valley and around the tech world. Google hopes to power their data centers with 100% clean energy by 2025, and Apple has already met their goal of using clean energy to power every facility in the United States.  The relationship between the tech industry and clean energy is only going to grow stronger as time goes on.

How clean is the energy your using in your own home or workplace? If you’re located within the U.S., you can find out by inputting your zip code here.


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