On 15 November 2016, during COP22 (the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), Masen signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Acwa Power for the development of 170 MW of solar PV plants, a Masen spokeswoman told pv magazine.
The new PV capacity is for the Noor PV 1 program, which comprises three solar plants in three different cities across Morocco. Specifically, Noor PV 1 is to be made of a 70 MW PV plant in Ouarzazate; an 80 MW plant located in Laayoune, and a 20 MW plant located in Boujdour, said Masen.
Saudi Arabia’s "Acwa Power was selected after an international tender and will be responsible for the development, construction and long term operation of the three plants under a BOOT (Build, Operate, Own and Transfer) scheme," the spokeswoman said.
New CSP, PV and storage tender under way
More exciting news followed soon after. According to Masen’s spokeswoman, the agency "is now working on the tender for the development of the first phase of the NOOR Midelt solar complex (NOOR Midelt Phase 1 Projects)".
"This phase would cover two hybrid PV and CSP power plant projects with storage. The CSP gross capacity is expected to be between 150 MW and 190 MW for each project. The PV capacity is to be proposed by developers based on request for proposal (RfP) requirements," she told pv magazine.
The process for selecting the project’s technologies and the tender was explained in more detail. Thus, Masen said, the technology configuration at the Midelt complex is contingent on site characteristics, the national grid’s needs, and economies of scale.
Regarding the tender process, this will follow a selection of international applicants with multiple stages that will commence "with a call for expression of interest to sound the market and check the market feasibility, followed by a pre-qualification step and a two stage RfP process, where bidders can submit their technical and then their financial offer," Masen added.
Such a process, the Masen spokeswoman argued, helps the Moroccan agency to select a developer of international standards who also meets Masen’s requirements for an optimized price per unit of KWh.
pv magazine has reported before that the NOOR PV 1 program is going to be partly financed by Morocco’s first ever green bond.
The total cost of the NOOR PV 1 project will be around $220 million, while Morocco’s green bond issue is 1,150 million dirhams (€106 million), said Masen.
Furthermore, Masen added, the bond issue was completed through private placement following the authorization of the Moroccan Authority of Capital Market to the following investors: the Al Barid Bank, the Attijariwafa Bank, the Caisse Marocaine des Retraites and the Société Centrale de Réassurance.
Turning to PV
In all, this is great news that will lead to Morocco adding hundreds of PV installations in the immediate years. The PV sector has been watching Morocco’s impressive CSP progress feeling rather excluded. The country inaugurated its first 160 MW CSP plant in February near the Ouarzazate town, with further plans to increase the CSP capacity in Quarzazate at about 500 MW.
This has led many analysts wondering why Morocco does not have plans to install PV too. Masen told pv magazine the agency it is "technology agnostic". The CSP technology was used in various forms on the complex at Ouarzazate, “but now,” she added, "we have tendered the development of the three photovoltaic solar plants (Noor PV 1) and work on the tender for the NOOR Midelt solar complex."
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