Concrete plans for third solar plant in occupied Western Sahara

Information has surfaced on Morocco's plans for a third solar plant in occupied Western Sahara, to be constructed in close proximity to the agri-business in Dakhla.

24 August 2020

Africa Intelligence today reports that the Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy (MASEN) has released some details on its solar plant project in Dakhla, a town located along the mid-coast in occupied Western Sahara. 

The plant will constitute the third unit in the territory that Morocco has held under illegal military occupation since 1975. An 80 MW plant near El Aaiún (referred to as NOOR Laayoune) and a 20 MW plant near Boujdour (referred to as NOOR Boujdour) have been operational since 2018.

The released information is mainly connected to the location of the plant: in El Argoub, on Dakhla bay, just opposite the town. With reason. Many hotels have opened on the west bank of Dakhla in recent years - most owned by princess Lalla Noufissa El-Yacoubi, a cousin of the king of Morocco. Locating the solar plant on the other side of the bay will not spoil the view of visiting tourists. In addition, El Argoub lies close to "several large export-oriented and power-hungry greenhouses", as Africa Intelligence describes. Some of these greenhouses are owned by the king of Morocco.

An environmental impact study has reportedly been carried out in August by the wali of the Dakhla Oued Ed-Dahab region, Lamine Benomar.

The operational solar plants in Western Sahara were developed by Saudi company ACWA Power, whose offtake contract with MASEN runs 20 years. It is not yet clear whether ACWA Power will play a role in this new, third, plant in the territory.

Morocco illegally occupied the north western part of the territory in 1975. As Moroccan forces expanded the occupation into the Dakhla area where the new solar plant is being erected, the UN General Assembly called for a termination of Morocco's occupation

Western Sahara Resource Watch wrote ACWA on 5 June 2020 and 29 November 2016 relating to construction of two solar energy parks near Boujdour and El Aaiún and on 2 July 2013 as ACWA was prequalified for a tender on wind energy for the territory. We never received response from the company to the letters. 

Morocco has for long had plans for a solar project at El Argoub. In 2016, the Moroccan body Société d’Investissement Energétiques signed an agreement with the local municipality for the development of such project. 

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