Noor solar power complex, Morocco

Ouarzazate hosts the world's newest and largest solar power plant. Yet, this case of land grabbing challenges us to remain critical of the claim that any move toward renewable energy, regardless of how it is carried out, is to be welcomed.


In order to break its heavy dependence on hydrocarbon imports, Morocco engaged in an ambitious renewable energy plan.  The Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, was launched by the king in February 2016.  For the benefit of the Moroccan state, the land on which the Ourzazate solar plant was built was sold by the Makhzen (dividing lines are often blurred between the state and the royal family’s holdings) to MASEN,  the Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy, a private company created with public funds.  Morocco’s ambitious solar megaproject has been praised by mainstream media, which touted its “green credentials” and “its potential to end Morocco’s dependency on energy imports, provide electricity to more than a million Moroccans, and export to Europe”. Despite it being praised by most media outlets in Morocco and the West, there is room for concern.

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Basic Data
NameNoor solar power complex, Morocco
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Land acquisition conflicts
Mega-project solar plants
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe plant is a parabolic trough type with 3-hour storage and a wet cooling system (using up to 2 - 3 million m3 of water per year). It is planned to produce between 125 to 160 MW. Noor 2 is being built as the second part of the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station. It will be a 200 MW concentrated solar power project using parabolic troughs, with a dry cooling system and 5-hour energy storage. Noor 3 is being built as the third part of the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station. It will be a 150 MW CSP solar project using a solar tower and 5-hour energy storage. Noor 4 will be a 80 MW photovoltaic solar plant.

Morocco annual irradiation rate: >2300 kWh/ m2/y, (30% superior to the best sites in Europe)

Project aims to generate 580 MW by 2020, currently producing 160 MW

According to Hamouchene "The cost of producing energy with CSP is very high. It is at 1.62 Moroccan dirhams for the kWh (kilowatt-hour), compared to around 0.8 Moroccan dirham for photovoltaic (PV) energy. MASEN will be buying the energy from the ACWA consortium at a fixed-price of 1.62 Moroccan dirhams, and selling it at an inferior grid price to ONE, operating therefore at a loss." [2]
Project Area (in hectares)480
Level of Investment (in USD)9,000,000,000.00
Type of PopulationUrban
Start Date01/01/2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesACWA Power International from Saudi Arabia - Saudi Arabian company and private partner to the Noor-Ouarzazate complex, is responsible for building the infrastructure, producing energy, and selling it to the Office National de l’Électricité (ONE), and the agreement entails an engagement from the latter to purchase the electricity for a period of twenty to thirty years.
Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) from Morocco - Loans
Relevant government actorsThe Makhzen (term that refers to the king and the ruling elite around him)

Office National de l’Électricité (ONE)
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America - Invested USD 400,000,000 in the solar plant, as part of a major funding program in Morocco that covers areas connected to the development of Morocco’s “green” capitalism, and its disbursement reached record levels in 2011 and 2012, with a major emphasis of these loans placed on promoting the use of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) within key sectors.
German Development Bank KfW (KfW) from Germany - Invested USD 1,000,000,000
International Finance Corporation (EIB) - Invested USD 596,000,000
African Development Bank - Banque Africaine de Développement
Climate Investment Funds
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginUNKNOWN
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationOfficial complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence
OtherA local inhabitant exclaimed: "the project people talk about this as a desert that is not used, but to the people here it is not desert, it is a pasture. It is their territory and their future is in the land. When you take my land. You take my oxygen." (2)
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Land demarcation
Development of AlternativesWhat is happening in Ouarzazate challenges us to remain critical of the claim that any move toward renewable energy, regardless of how it is carried out, is to be welcomed.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The project is in expansion. While the building of the second phase Noor II has been postponed, it is not clear why.
Sources and Materials

[3] Hamza Hamouchene (2016). The Ouarzazate Solar Plant in Morocco: Triumphal 'Green' Capitalism and the Privatization of Nature. Jadaliyya. 23 March 2016.
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[1] Hamza Hamouchene (2016). The Struggle for Energy Democracy in the Maghreb. Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung.
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[2] Karen Rignall (2012). Theorizing Sovereignty in Empty Land: the Land Tenure Implications of Concentrated Solar Power in pre-Saharan Morocco. Land Deal Politics Initiative.


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The World Bank - MA- Noor Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Project
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The Guardian, Feb 2016 - Morocco to switch on first phase of world's largest solar plant
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the largest concentrated solar power complex in

Africa increasesthe share ofrenewable energy in

electricity generation in Morocco
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Other Documents

Ouarzazate Solar Power Station is the world's largest concentrated solar power plant.
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Ouarzazate Solar Power Station is the world's largest concentrated solar power plant.
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Meta Information
ContributorPlatform London
Last update16/03/2017
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