Western Sahara solar plants expected to be operational in 2018

Morocco has started the construction of large solar industry infrastructure in the part of Western Sahara that it is illegally occupying.
Published: 30.06 - 2017 09:42Printer version    
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.

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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Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
EU Court cases on Western Sahara for dummies


It's not easy keeping up with all the different legal proceedings relating to Western Sahara. For the sake of clarity, here's an overview of the five different cases at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Stand up for the Gdeim Izik 25!


Leading activists from Western Sahara are condemned to sentences ranging from 20 years to life imprisonment in connection to a mass protest in 2010 denouncing the Saharawi people’s social and economic marginalization in their occupied land; the Gdeim Izik protest camp.
Support Western Sahara Resource Watch


Help us to protect the natural resources of Western Sahara for the Saharawi people. Support our work by making a donation.
Report: Moroccan green energy used for plunder


At COP22, beware of what you read about Morocco’s renewable energy efforts. An increasing part of the projects take place in the occupied territory of Western Sahara and is used for mineral plunder, new WSRW report documents.

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