Desertec to break ground at Moroccan CSP plant in 2012

The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) will break ground next year at the first phase of a Moroccan solar-thermal project, and will also pursue projects in Tunisia and Algeria in the medium term, according to senior figures within the group.

Last year DII confirmed its intention to build its first project in Morocco, which has no indigenous fossil-fuel resources and is rolling forward its own plan to install 2GW of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity by 2020.

DII now says the Moroccan project will start with a 150MW first phase before being expanded to 500MW, with construction to commence in 2012, as reported in the German press.

The first phase is expected to cost €600m ($822m) – or €4m per installed MW – and will take two to four years to build.

DII has also confirmed its intention to sign an agreement with Algeria next month to pursue projects in that country, having already opened an office in Tunisia earlier this year.

The group – whose members include E.ON, Siemens, Abengoa, Munich Re, and a variety of other companies likely to benefit from a massive renewables build-out in North Africa – insists that the recent political upheaval in the Maghreb region will not blow its plans off course, and may ultimately benefit the transition to a lower-carbon economy.

While a host of German financial and engineering heavyweights stand ready to invest in DII projects, the initiative may face new competition in the form of Greece’s mooted Helios project.

Those supporting Helios look to build 10GW of PV capacity in Greece and flow the electricity to less sunny countries such as Germany.

The Greek PV industry has openly declared Helios to be more politically and economically feasible than Desertec.

Last week Helios unexpectedly turned up in the most recent plan endorsed by the European Council to establish clear paths by which Greece can repay its debt-holders.