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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
Name of conflict:Noor solar power complex, Morocco
Location of conflict:Ouarzazate
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Large-scale solar plants
Water access rights and entitlements
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The 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.

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Project area:480
Level of Investment for the conflictive project9,000,000,000.00
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:01/01/2011
Company names or state enterprises:ACWA 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 actors:The Makhzen (term that refers to the king and the ruling elite around him)
Office National de l’Électricité (ONE)
International and Finance 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
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageUnknown
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage)
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition
Socio-economical 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
Other socio-economic impactsA 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
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Land demarcation
Proposal and development of alternatives:What 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project is in expansion. While the building of the second phase Noor II has been postponed, it is not clear why.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[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.

[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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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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Meta information
Contributor:Platform London
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:2680
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