Morocco awarded a Saudi-led consortium a $1 billion contract to build a 160 megawatt solar power plant, the first in a series of vast solar energy projects planned in the North African kingdom.
A consortium made up of Saudi developer ACWA Power International (95 percent) and the Spanish firms ARIES and TSC (five percent between them), beat off bids from three other groups, one of them led by Italian energy giant Enel.
The bids were evaluated on the basis of price per kilowatt/hour proposed by the competing firms, with the ACWA group offering 1.60 dirhams (0.14 euros), some 27 percent less than the nearest bidder.
Announcing the winners, Mustapha Bakkoury, the head of Morocco’s solar energy agency MASEN, said the project would cost nearly $1 billion (774 million euros), with work to begin at the end of 2012 and slated for completion in late 2014.
Located near the desert frontier town of Ouarzazate and covering 2,500 hectares, the project is the first of two phases that should when completed raise the Ouarzazate plant’s generation capacity to 500 megawatts.
The project will be financed with loans from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the European Investment Bank, Germany’s KfW bank and the French Development Agency
The German government and the European Commission will also provide grants of 15 million and 30 million euros respectively.
Morocco is aiming to become a world-class renewable electricity producer, and is eyeing the chance to export clean energy to Europe.
The Ouarzazate solar plant is the first of five that Morocco plans to build by 2020 in its southern desert regions, which are expected to add 2,000 megawatts to total generation capacity at an estimated cost of $9 billion.
The resource-poor country also hopes to add 2,000 megawatts of generation capacity over the same period, from planned wind farms along the coast.
Speaking at Monday’s awarding ceremony, the head of the department of water and electricity, Ali Fassi Fihri, described the project as a “great step towards the future.”