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Moroccan solar plant to supply power 20 hours a day

A giant plant using energy from the sun to power a Moroccan city at night will open in December, the BBC has reported.

The solar thermal plant at Ouarzazate will harness the sun’s warmth to melt salt, which will hold its heat to power a steam turbine in the evening.

The first phase will generate for three hours after dark; the last stage aims to supply power 20 hours a day.

It is part of Morocco’s pledge to get 42% of its electricity from renewables by 2020.

The UN has praised Morocco for the level of its ambition. The UK, a much richer country, is aiming for 30% by the same date.

The Saudi-built Ouarzazate solar thermal plant will be one of the world’s biggest when it is complete. The mirrors will cover the same area as the country’s capital, Rabat.

The developers say phase one of the futuristic complex will bring energy to a million people.

The complex stands on the edge of a gritty, flat, rust-red desert, with the snow-clad Atlas mountains towering to the north.

It is part of a vision from Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to turn his country into a renewable energy powerhouse.

The nation has been 98% dependent on imported fossil fuels, but the king was persuaded of the vast capacity of Atlantic wind, mountain hydro power and scorching Saharan sun.

The king’s plans are being enacted by environment minister Hakima el Haite.

As part of its national commitment, Morocco has pledged to decrease CO2 emissions 32% below business-as-usual conditions by 2030, conditional on aid to reach the target.

Currently Morocco imports electricity from Spain, but engineers hope this will not last long.

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