Western Sahara solar plants expected to be operational in 2018
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Morocco has started the construction of large solar industry infrastructure in the part of Western Sahara that it is illegally occupying.
Published 30 June 2017


Morocco has broken ground on the highly controversial Noor PV I Program in April this year. That Program consists of three photo-voltaic solar plants on sites which have been dubbed NOOR Ouarzazate IV (70 MW), NOOR Laayoune (80 MW) and NOOR Boujdour (20 MW).

The two latter sites are situated in the areas of Western Sahara that Morocco holds under military occupation since 1975, and the construction of these installations have just begun.

By 2020, according to the Moroccan government, more than a quarter of the green energy produced by Morocco will have been generated by solar and wind plants located outside of Morocco, and inside Africa's last colony. No less than 40% of Morocco's solar capacity would then come from Western Sahara. In November last year, WSRW published the report Powering the Plunder, documenting how Morocco's renewable energy efforts are being deployed to make its plunder of Western Sahara more lucrative.

The king of Morocco launched the start of the construction work in Western Sahara's capital El Aaiun in early April of this year, shortly after having inaugurated the works on the Ouarzazate part of the program, in Morocco proper.

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Half the people of Western Sahara live as refugees following the Moroccan illegal invasion of the territory, an occupation condemned by the UN. The refugees, living in tents, have to set up their own solar panels. The company certifying the Saudi-Moroccan projects in the occupied territory disagrees with the Court of Justice of the EU that the people of Western Sahara have to grant their consent regarding the taking of the territory's resources.
The company that won the rights to develop the three project sites is Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power. Together with three other firms - Chint Group, Shapoorji Pallonji and Sterling & Wilson - Acwa Power won the tender to develop, build and operate the three plants under a BOOT (Build, Operate, Own and Transfer) scheme. The announcement of Acwa Power's selection was done at the United Nations Climate Conference, COP22, at Marrakech in November last year.

Acwa Power has contracted Sterling & Wilson, headquartered in Mumbai, India, to construct the installations [or download]. That contract was also signed at COP22 [or download]. WSRW has sent a letter to Sterling & Wilson in November 2016, inquiring as to what steps the firm had taken to obtain the consent of the Saharawi people with regard to its plans in their country, but has not received a reply.

The certification of the Moroccan-Saudi infrastructure programme in the occupied territory is done by the Moroccan-French-UK Vigeo Eiris, a company which issues statements strongly supporting Morocco's position on the occupation and which refuses to answer questions from WSRW.

The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN) has entered into a power purchase agreement to off-take the generated electricity. The European Commission has stated that following the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU in 2016, the EU cannot import energy produced by Morocco in Western Sahara.

Just last week, Morocco's national electricity agency launched a tender for a study on how to optimise the electricity grid in occupied Western Sahara, and in the southern areas of Morocco.

Work on the solar plants is expected to take up about 12 months.

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