Morocco inaugurated the biggest wind power plant in Africa

The new wind farm, which cost some 300 million dollars, is located in Melloussa, 34 kilometres (21 miles) from Tangiers in northern Morocco and has 165 wind turbines, with a production capacity of 140 megawatts.

Morocco unveiled on Monday a wind energy project worth 31.5 billion dirhams, which officials said will help increase the share of the country’s electricity consumption from renewable sources to 42 percent by 2020.

The wind farm is 42-km long and is located in two zones, Dhar Saadane and south of Tangiers. A contribution from the European Investment Bank (80 million euros) was extremely important. Other crucial contributions came from Spain’s Official Credit Institute (100 million euros), German Kreditanstalt fur Wienderaufbau (50 million) and the Moroccan National Office for Potable Water (20 million euros).

The energy produced at the Tangiers wind farm will allow 126,000 tonnes of crude oil to be saved per year, and will significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

The project will involve building five wind farms to increase the North African state’s wind generation capacity to 2,000 megawatts in 2020 from the approximate 280 megawatts it currently produces from small wind farms.

Officials said the government had selected the other sites of the wind energy project in Tetouan, Taza, Layoune and Boujdour. Funding of the wind power project will be from a mix of state and private capital, including from foreign investors.

Morocco is the only North African country with no oil of its own. It seeks to cut its dependency on imported oil and coal by expanding power generation capacity from renewable sources. Last year, it launched a solar energy project worth $9 billion, which will account for 38 percent of the North African country’s installed power generation by 2020.

The solar scheme involves five solar power generation stations across Morocco and will produce 2,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020.

The wind energy project was part-financed by the European Bank, which invested 80 million euros, while Spanish and German banks put in a total of 150 million euros.

"The EU gives priority to this kind of investment and is proud to have financed the wind farm," said Guido Prud’homme, the European Bank’s representative at the inauguration ceremony.

Morocco’s Minister of Energy and Mining, Yamsmina Benkhadra, said the wind farm "is part of a global project estimated at three billion dollars. It will be completed in 2020."

The project, she said, would secure 42 percent of Morocco’s energy production, with wind farms, solar energy and hydraulic sources each generating 14 percent of the total.

This would reduce Morocco’s energy bill, Benkhadra said, and would "assure our energy security and a sustainable development." A large wind farm in north Morocco opened in 2000 with a 54-megawatt capacity.

"Morocco is open to all forms of partnership as long as the foreign firms have the capabilities to bring expertise, technology and know-how. We are looking for public-private as well as national-and-foreign partnerships," the country’s Energy Minister Amina Benkhadra has said.

When finished in 2020, the five solar plants will account for 38% of Morocco’s total installed power-generation capacity, while covering 20% of its total electricity requirements.

Morocco, the only North African country to have a power cable link to Europe, aims to benefit from the €400bn ($573.8bn) expected to come from the ambitious pan-continental Desertec Industrial Initiative.

The initiative Desertec will create vast fields of concentrating solar power (CSP) plants – arrays of mirrors which focus the sun’s energy to turn water into steam that will drive electrical turbines. The power will then flow through a network of low loss transmission cables to pipe electricity into the existing European grid, via Spain.