Power from the Winds of Atlas: Morocco Does Not Possess the Oil and Gas Reserves of Other North African States but It Is Finally Making the Most of the One Energy Source That It Does Possess in Abundance-Wind Power Potential. Neil Ford Reports

By Ford, Neil | African Business, December 2007 | Go to article overview

Power from the Winds of Atlas: Morocco Does Not Possess the Oil and Gas Reserves of Other North African States but It Is Finally Making the Most of the One Energy Source That It Does Possess in Abundance-Wind Power Potential. Neil Ford Reports


Ford, Neil, African Business


Rabat has decided to follow Egypt's lead in encouraging the development of wind farms to complement its stock of thermal power plants. With relatively little hydro potential, the Maghreb nation currently relies on imported gas to provide power sector feedstock, so installing hundreds of turbines should bring benefits in terms of energy security, as well as cutting the gas import bill.

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The Moroccan government has set a target of increasing the share of electricity produced by renewable means from 0.24% in 2004 to 10% by 2011. The state owned Office National de l'Electricite (ONE) has been put in charge of the renewables drive and right from the start there has been no doubt that wind power would provide the lion's share of renewable energy generating capacity.

The country's geography has endowed it with high wind power potential: the Atlas Mountains are particularly attractive to developers, while many coastal districts enjoy both high wind speeds and access to centres of power consumption.

A combined gas and solar scheme at Ain Beni Mathar will include a 30MW element of solar generation but on-grid electricity generated by solar power is almost always more expensive than wind turbines, so the role of solar is likely to be restricted mainly to small scale off-grid generation.

Although ONE may miss out on its goal if there are any delays to the proposed wind farms, there are indications that the goal may be achieved very soon after the target date. National generating capacity is expected to reach 6.5GW by 2011 and ONE is sure that 600MW will be installed at wind power schemes by that date.

The largest operational plant at present is the 60MW Amogdoul project close to Essaouira, about 400km south of Casablanca on the Atlantic coast. It came on stream in 2007 and benefits from financial support under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The next most important wind power scheme in Morocco is the Koudia Al Baida Abdelkhalek Torres project close to the city of Tetouan, which has been operational since 2000. Its 90 turbines have generating capacity of 600kW each, yielding 54MW in total.

Spain provides generators

ONE has carried out research over the past few years into the most attractive wind power sites in the country and is developing several schemes on its own. The largest of these is the 140MW Tangier wind power project, the development of which was described by ONE chairman Younees Maamar as "an important step in the policy of generating clean energy ... as well as for the economic activity of the region".

Spanish firm Gamesa is supplying 165 turbines to the venture, each with generating capacity of 850kW, under a $271m turnkey contract that was awarded at the start of this year. The value of the contract underlines the growing economic importance of the wind power sector.

This would have been a typical turbines size even three years ago but many developers are now opting for 2MW and 3MW turbines, so it is interesting to note that ONE considers the smaller model more efficient. Gamesa has already supplied turbines to a variety of ONE schemes with combined generating capacity of 210MW, so it has a great deal of experience in working on Moroccan sites.

The Spanish wind power market is one of the largest in the world, so Morocco is able to benefit from the proximity of specialist companies from across the Straits of Gibraltar. Gamesa is just one of a growing number of Spanish companies operating in Morocco.

Despite ONE's decision to develop its own wind power schemes, more capacity is being added by private sector investors via independent power producers (IPPs) or build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) contracts.

ONE has asked for bids to develop a coastal wind power scheme near the town of Tarfaya under a BOOT contract. The wind farm, which would have generating capacity of 200-300MW, will benefit from a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA), under which ONE would buy the project's entire output.

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Power from the Winds of Atlas: Morocco Does Not Possess the Oil and Gas Reserves of Other North African States but It Is Finally Making the Most of the One Energy Source That It Does Possess in Abundance-Wind Power Potential. Neil Ford Reports
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