Morocco has awarded contracts for the building of 350MW of generation capacity across two phases of a 500MW solar power project to a consortium led by Saudi Arabian company ACWA Power.

The Moroccan solar energy agency (Masen) announced the award of contracts on Saturday, made financing agreements for the NOOR II and NOOR III phases of the 500MW CSP Ouarzazate project with leading donors in mid-December.

When completed, the projects will represent the achievement of a quarter of Morocco’s 2020 target for solar power generation. The North African country is committed to installing 2GW of capacity by then. To that end, Masen is simultaneously developing NOOR II and NOOR III “under a scheme of independent production (Independent Power Production - IPP) for electricity and useful to the best standards in close and fruitful collaboration with the National Office Electricity and Water Supply,” Masen said in a statement on Friday. The total cost of building the Ouarzazate project was estimated at US$1.7 billion. Funding has come from parties including Germany's state development bank KfW and a US$519 million loan from the World Bank.

NOOR II, a 200MW phase of the plant, will use parabolic mirror technology, while NOOR III (150MW), will use so-called solar “power tower” technology. The parabolic trough NOOR II will have seven hours’ duration of storage and will deliver a price of MAD1.36 (US$0.15) per kWh. NOOR III will utilise a newer form of concentrating solar power technology and will cost slightly more, MAD1.42 per kWh. The power tower phase will have storage duration of between seven and eight hours. Incidentally, the NOOR IV phase of the project will be a 50MW photovoltaic plant.  

ACWA Power, which describes itself as “a developer, investor, co-owner and operator of plants with a generation portfolio of 15,731 MW of power” as well as an involvement in water desalination, is already building the first 160MW phase of Ouarzazate. ACWA’s consortium includes Spanish engineering and technology company Sener.

Spanish developer Abengoa had also led a consortium to put in bids on NOOR, and is thought to have put in a cheaper bid on NOOR III than ACWA’s consortium. However, according to various reports, ACWA’s group are thought to have put in a combined bid for NOOR II and III which beat its rival. A request to Masen and Abengoa to clarify this situation was not responded to in time for publication.