Noor 1 shows solar-thermal has big future, industry study claims

This week's inauguration of Morocco's 160MW Noor 1 project shows how sun-rich nations can successfully pioneer solar-thermal generation, said an industry report.

The huge solar-thermal project has already boosted the local economy and will cut Morocco's emissions by 240,000 tonnes per year, according to a report from the European Solar Thermal Association (Estela), SolarPACES and Greenpeace International.

It points out Noor 1 is merely the first phase of the Noor solar-thermal project. Two more are already under development and once completed, Noor will be among the largest solar power production facilities in the world at 580MW.

"Noor 1 isn't just a showcase for solar thermal technology," said Marcel Bial, Estela secretary general. "It shows that countries like Morocco can be leaders in renewable energy, setting the country on a path that Europe should follow."

The report, Solar Thermal Electricity Global Outlook 2016, shows how the installed capacity of solar-thermal plants has increased from 500MW in 2006 to almost 5GW today.

The report says the sector is now on a steady development pathway towards double-digit-gigawatt capacity within the next five years.

Although the sector has experienced challenges due to political instability in key markets and strong competition with other renewables technologies – especially PV – the authors of the report say they are confident solar thermal electricity is still well placed to play a significant role in a future renewable-powered world.

The source could supply up to 12% of the world's power requirements by 2050, given the right conditions, creating millions of jobs, they claimed.

"It is now essential that the European Union, the US, Australia and other regions act to remove barriers that prevent solar thermal projects from obtaining financing, so that the technology reaches its full potential."