European consortium to tap solar energy from the heart of Moroccan desert

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Photo – BrightSource Energy

The German, French, Italian, Spanish and Moroccan governments are pushing forward their green solar energy “Desertec” project, exclusive information obtained by a German newspaper revealed on Thursday.

According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the biggest selling national newspaper in Germany, electricity produced by a solar thermal plant in Morocco, which would cost €600 million to build, would serve as a vital renewable energy source for Europe.

The planned power plant site will be constructed in the desert outpost near the city of Ouarzazate, southeast of Marrakesh.

Sources told the Munich-based paper that if everything goes according to the plan, an agreement of intent will be signed in November and an inter-governmental agreement will be signed by all five nations by June 2013, with other partners possibly coming on board as well.

“Cooperation with Europe is an important axis in our energy strategy,” Süddeutsche Zeitung quoted Morocco’s Minister of Industry Abdelkader Amara as saying.

Earlier, a spokeswoman for Germany’s Ministry of the Economy Plans confirmed that a Desertec conference will be held in Berlin in early November.

The European Union, despite all the political and economic hurdles, has emerged as a staunch supporter of the project. Two cables between Morocco and mainland Europe have already been laid across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Paul van Son, CEO of the Desertec Industrial Initiative (Dii), told Süddeutsche Zeitung that the private industrial consortium created to see the 150 megawatt solar project over the next two years will see the desert electricity vision become a practical reality.

Dii comprises of over 50 international companies and organisations, with the likes of Deutsche Bank, Italy’s energy giant Enel, and the Saudi energy developer Acwa Power on board.

Dii shareholders have already given their approval to invest €200 million. “We are working closely with Masen, the Moroccan solar agency. The plans for the project are complete and the industry is interested. Now we just have to see who pays what bills,” van Son said in the interview.

Apart from turning the desert lands of the Middle East and North Africa into a renewable sun and wind energy hub, Dii also aims to cover 15% of European electricity requirements by 2050.

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