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Moroccan wind

On 2 November, Morocco launched a US$9 billion solar energy programme. With five power plants, the programme aims for a total installed capacity of 2,000 MW by 2020-equivalent to almost 40% of the country's electricity production.

The new plan demonstrates how seriously MENA is taking solar energy. But until now, it has been in wind that some real strides have been made. Morocco started to focus on renewables back in 1982 when the Centre for the Development of Renewable Energy (CDER) was set up. In the mid-1980s, with assistance from USAID, Morocco mapped its wind resources and the regions with most potential-in the north, around Tetouan, and in the west, around Tarfaya, both clocking average wind speeds of well over eight metres per second. Investors sat up.

Some ten years later, another site in the north of the country, Al Koudia al Baida, was tapped to host the country's first wind farm, with help from German investors. The Moroccan Electricity Office, ONE, agreed to retain ownership of the farm while buying electricity from it for 20 years. The 50 MW project cost some US$60 million. A second, smaller farm was opened on the same site in 1996 and two larger farms were opened elsewhere in the country. Cap Sim in the south was inaugurated in 2007, offering a capacity of 60 MW. Another one at Tangier in the north represents a great leap forward with 140 MW of planned capacity. An additional 300 MW of wind farms will be set up near Tarfaya by 2012, with private firms agreeing to buy supply.

For engineer Mustapha Enzili, head of resources and engineering at CDER, "the 1990s were devoted to prospection and preparation, the 2000s saw the installation of the first wind farms, and the 2010s should be home to scaling".

Now, industrial firms can produce electricity for their own needs and sell surplus to ONE. The cement manufacturer Lafarge has taken the lead in this area by installing a 32 MW capacity wind farm. Mining companies and steelmakers also have projects that would produce 1,000 MW by 2012 in wind farms near Tangier, Laayoune and other sites. And the national drinking water offi ce is doing a feasibility study for a desalination plant driven by a 10 MW wind farm at Tan-Tan. In all, Morocco could be producing over 1,500 MW of wind power by 2012. MF

©OECD Observer No 275, November 2009