Moroccan solar-wind mega hybrid unveiled

Xlinks’ Simon Morrish, Paddy Padmanathan and Dave Lewis. Image: Xlinks

A 10.5GW solar-plus-wind project is under development in Morocco’s Guelmim Oued Noun region, with 3.6GW of this to be exported to Great Britain.

Xlinks – the company behind the Morocco-UK Power Project – said the project is capable of generating for an average of 20+ hours a day, taking advantage of the high solar irradiance in the south of Morocco alongside consistent convection desert winds to provide an alternative source of zero carbon electricity to GB.

It is also to feature a 5GW/20GWh battery facility, helping to ensure the power generated can be delivered every day, resulting in a dedicated, near-constant source of flexible and predictable renewable energy.

The project is currently making progress in gaining the requisite regulatory and government approvals in Morocco, according to Xlinks.

It is the first project from the business, which has a top team consisting of Simon Morrish, founder of Levitate Capital as CEO, Paddy Padmanathan, president and CEO of ACWA Power as vice chair and former Tesco CEO, Sir Dave Lewis as executive chair. In Morocco, Xlinks is chaired by Dayae Oudghiri.

As part of the project, four 3,800km high-voltage direct current (HVDC) sub-sea cables are to be laid in waters skirting the coasts of Portugal, Spain and France before linking to Britain’s electricity network via two 1.8GW connections in the county of Devon.

Xlinks said that utilising the UK’s Contracts for Difference renewable auction scheme (CfD) would make the project a source of revenue rather than cost, delivering energy at £48/MWh CfD, below BEIS’ central forecast for energy prices.

In 2019’s CfD auction, offshore wind reached a record-breaking low of £39.65/MWh, with 6GW of new offshore wind capacity securing contracts at varying prices.

The Morocco-UK Power Project is also expected to have a positive impact on jobs, both in Morocco and GB. In Morocco, the project is expected to drive the production of locally manufactured solar and wind components as well as local civil engineering works. Nearly 10,000 jobs will be created during construction, 2,000 of which will become permanent.

The project will “reinforce Morocco’s renewable energy industry” according to Lewis, while harnessing solar and wind to deliver baseload power balancing.

Morocco is currently aiming for 52% of its installed capacity to be renewables by 2030. It held a 400MW solar PV tender last year, with other government-backed PV projects including a 600-800MW PV-plus-CSP-plus-storage project which was contracted in May 2019 to France’s EDF, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar and Morocco’s Green Africa.

Meanwhile, in GB, Xlinks plans to create an export-led cable manufacturing industry via dedicated cable supply system company XLCC. This is to provide around 1,350 new, permanent regional jobs by 2024, when production is set to start, having entered into agreements for two GB-based factories. The company is also in discussions for a third.

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