Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

The BBC, that bastion of slanted reportage on all things green, has an article about a new solar power plant entitled “The Colossal African Solar Plant That Could Power Europe“. It’s full of all kinds of interesting information about the plant, located in Ouarzazate, Morocco. Man, how come Africa gets all the great place names, that one just reeks of mystery, “Ouar-za-za-te”, makes me want to go visit … but I digress. It’s called the “Noor” power plant, from the Arabic word for “light”.

The reporter talks about a variety of things, including the fact that on the day the reporter visited it was overcast … but somehow, despite hyperventilating about just how awesome and gosh-dang wonderful the plant is and the difference this will make to the planet, the reporter never got around to talking about the cost. Funny, that.


Being a congenial sort of fellow, at least on a good day with a following wind, I figured I’d give them a hand. The relevant numbers are available at the Wikipedia page—the plant cost $3.9 billion dollars US ($3.9E+9, much of it a gift from hard-pressed European taxpayers diverted by guilty CO2-obsessed European liberals), and it produces 370 gigawatt-hours per year (370E+9 watt-hrs).

Now, in the US a power plant typically sells its product for something like six cents US per kilowatt-hour. Multiplying that by 370 GWhr/year gives us an annual value of the energy produced of about $22,000,000 dollars per year.

And at twenty-two mega-bucks per year, how long will it take to pay back the $3.9 billion dollar cost of the plant?

Er … um … breakeven time is a hundred and seventy-seven years … but only if there are zero maintenance costs … and if there is no interest on any borrowed funds … and if you don’t count avoided income available from investing the four giga-bucks elsewhere for a century … ooogh.

However, I do note that on the Wikipedia page it says that they are selling the electricity wholesale at US$ 0.19 per kilowatt-hour. Not good news for poor people in Morocco. This brings the breakeven time down to a mere fifty-six years … again if there are no maintenance costs, no interest costs, and no avoided income.

You know, people keep selling these plants on the basis of saving the world, but at that horrendous cost and huge breakeven time, I’m not sure we can afford to keep saving the poor thing time after time …

Further research, however, elucidates the conundrum. It turns out that this is not just an energy generation plant. It’s a moral lesson for the world and a harbinger of the future and will save CO2 and serve as a template for really big money wasting projects and … hang on, that’s my interpretation. Let me get the actual claims, curiously from a Freedom of Information Act document. To start with, it says:

Both cost-effectiveness analysis and cost-benefit analysis indicate that the project is not economically justified under prevailing economic conditions. 

Ya think???

However, the plant is supposed to provide the following intangible benefits:

  • Climate change mitigation
  • Increase in factors of production (physical capital, human capital, and natural capital)
  • Accelerated innovation, through correction of market failures in knowledge
  • Enhanced efficiency, through correction of non-environmental market failures
  • Increased resilience to natural disasters, commodity price volatility, and economic crises
  • Job creation and poverty reduction

My favorite? “Correction of non-environmental market failures”. That’s got to be worth big bucks.

So all you have to do is to put numbers on those intangibles, make the values large enough, and suddenly this money-losing proposition will be ready to “power Europe” … at three times the market cost of electricity … not counting significant transmission costs … as soon as the multibillion dollar high voltage high ampacity DC undersea power cable gets funded and designed and laid across the Mediterranean from Morocco to Europe …

Another beautiful green dream ship wrecked on a reef of hard economics. It least it seems no US taxpayer money is going into this debacle. That’s good news, because we need it to line Elon Musk’s pockets …


Por favor, if you disagree with someone please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS YOU DISAGREE WITH. I can defend my own words, but only if I know which ones you are referring to.

266 thoughts on “Ouarzazate

  1. I assume that 3.9 Billion does not include the costs of a sea bottom transmission line to Europe. I’m not an electrical engineer but is that even possible without intermediate stations which would have to be sea bottom as well. You also need to add in the transmission costs.

    • I checked a couple of things, the Gibralter Strait is 9 miles across roughly at the closest point between the Africa and Europe. It ranges between 900 and 3000 ft deep and the bottom profile is rough.
      Germany, France and Spain collectively used about 1,250,000 GW/hr in 2015

      • Power all of Europe through one transmission line?
        What a target: one key point to destroy all of Europe!!!
        Did they count the BILLIONS that will be required to defend it from terrorists?

      • This thing will be just like Ivanpah when completed.
        Total of 3 molten salt reactors…
        Cover about 5 square miles…
        Have a nameplate capacity similar to Diablo Canyon Unit 1…
        Probably produce about 1/4 of that…
        Still require conventional backup to keep the salt hot…
        As for powering Europe goes…RIIIGHT perhaps power 1 in 50 homes for 6 hours a day

      • blockquote>….. and it produces 370 gigawatt-hours per year
        I assume that actually means …..
        it produces 370 gigawatt-hours ….. per each group of ‘365 / 6-hour’ non-cloudy/non-dust stormy days
        And who/what provides the power for the other 18 hours of each of those 365 days?

    • The high power line is routine engineering for at least 50 years. They want to build a long power line from Iceland to England. High power DC is the way they do undersea power lines since day 1..
      The real trouble is 1 GWH per day is a trivial amount of power. Not worth building a power line to get such a trivial amount of power..

      • 1 GWH per day / 24h = 1E09 / 24 GWH per hour = 41.7 MW
        If they can make that into 300 MW, they have solved the world’s energy problems !

      • Norway and Germany are currently “investing” in a power interconnector for the small sum of 28BNOK, about $4B. It may not be directly comparable but gives an indication of the order of magnitude of the cable cost.
        The Norwegian German project is another green scheme to allow Norwegian hydroelectric to balance German wind and solar. The effect on us poor norwegian power consumers is that we will have to pay both higher electricity costs (El in Norway is currently cheaper than in Germany, but that will even out.) and half of the investment!
        Another cable will connect Norway to the UK, total amount of copper for both sets of cables is 280000T, so I guess the copper producers are happy!

      • Don’t forget to allow for a ship dragging its anchor which is believed to be the cause of the loss of half the France/UK interconnector in November and possibly the straw that breaks the camel’s back for us this winter.
        To add insult to injury the Met Office have taken to naming every bit of bad weather to keep up with the big boys in USA. Hence ‘Angus’; I’m shocked, shocked to know that there is bad weather in The English Channel in November.

      • “Seeing what has happened in the Mojave, 1GWH per day will probably be 300MW without fossil assistance”
        Different technology Bryan. Ivanpah is molten salt which isn’t working as well in practice as on paper and in pub/internet ahem … “discussions”. Quarzazate looks to be solar PV which is reasonably well understood. It might actually deliver 1GW. And it shouldn’t need fossil fuel assist … just fossil fuel or nuclear or hydro or something backup. BTW, since the sun doesn’t shine at night and PV doesn’t work well at low sun angles and there are some cloudy days, Quarzazate is probably something like 3GW one third of the time rather than 1GW continuous.

      • If you look at the design criteria for 10KW Reunion island feed you will see the problem
        The beam needs to be 17m wide for 10KW to keep the power level below biological safe level of 5 mW/cm2.
        It s a simple calculation power (10KW) divided by cross sectional area (2226 cm2)
        Now try the calculation of 40MW or 330MW 🙂
        If you can’t do the maths you need a 320m wide beam for 40MW and a 2100m wide beam for 330MW. Nice antenna arrays for those sizes 🙂
        I guess the alternative is to fry anything flying into the beam … if you get it high enough in density we could go for instant fried bird for the locals as a side benefit.

  2. The Beeb’s reporter also ‘forgot’ to mention ……

    Fossil Fuel Needs
    Energy supply using fossil fuel is crucial in order to:
    – maintain the eutectic salts at high temperature so that they remain liquid (solidification at 110°C), and
    – maintain the temperature of the oil above its minimal operational temperature (8°C for synthetic oil) and feed the pumps at night so that oil keeps circulating in the circuits.
    Back-up fuel needs for the Ouarzazate complex have been estimated at 19T/day of gasoil for a capacity of 500 MW. Gasoil with a sulphur content of 50 ppm is recommended.


      • luckily we have not had any proper winters for a while here on the east coast,so usage is down. with the amount on biomass plants of differing sizes being built around the kingdom i am hoping the uhi effect will keep the usage low 😉

      • And of course, every apple you eat, every toilet you flush, every council service you use, are gobbling up 14.4p/kWh that’s passed onto you (and me, I only live 400 miles from you).

      • The 4.4 KWH cents doesn’t include all the fixed costs. One of the my bills that I checked a while back, put the total cost at around 14 cents a KWH when everything was factored in. I’m in Alberta Canada.

      • From central Washington State
        Residential rate, monthly
        Facilities Charge . . . . . $19.00
        Energy Charge … . . . . $0897/kWh
        Our house is 100% electric
        Wood stove for emergency heating

      • Just across the county border its 14.3 pence per unit – double what it was just eight years ago, There’s some serious gouging getting done on an intransigent public. Peterhead gas station recently lost out amongst the spare capacity boondoggle. Our so-called ‘executives’ will soon meet reality. Personally, I’d criminally try them for public offence under office.

    • In California the insane Renewables Mandate has doubled the cost in a decade, we’re up to $0.15 here … and Anthony gets charged over ninety cents a kilowatt-hour at peak time in Chico.

      • That’s bad. In California you’re lucky that you don’t have to run a furnace all winter long, and whatever kind of winter you do get, isn’t as long or cold as ours is here in Alberta.

      • Looking at my electric bill here in Fallbrook, CA. 15c for first 369 kwhr; then goes to 39c kwhr after that . Burning ~900kwh per month gets me ~29.2c/kwhr overall. Then there are the additional line and delivery charges which adds another $15 to the bill.

      • Rob – I think you must be looking at an old bill. My last EPCOR bill worked out to $233.27 for 2373 kWh which is 9.8 cents per kWh (October 14 to November 14) with taxes, distribution charge, transmission charge, rate rider, Balancing Pool Allocation and Local Access Fee. The Generation Charge was close to yours at 4.34 (two rates – 887 kWh at 3.684 and 1486 kWh at 4.385).
        Power costs are down by about 2/3 from a couple of years ago when the economy in Alberta was going all out before the oil crash and surplus power wasn’t available. Then the generating charge was north of 11 cents per kWh and total charges were 16 to 17 cents per kWh.
        Right now, the Pool price is depressed due to the crappy economy and low demand. Even the current cold snap isn’t expected to make much difference.
        Now the Carbon tax and other regulation changes coming in January of 2017 is something else.
        Reading the Provincial Government budget, out here in Faraway, Alberta (yup it’s a real place), my annual costs (Fuel, heating electricity etc -) look to be going up by about $5,000 per year and though I am long retired, selling my farm puts me in the category of No Carbon Tax Rebate that the government is advertising every day on TV. Even if I did, I bet the net cost versus the rebate won’t balance out for most people.
        Government “watch the pea” game at it’s best. We all know the pea is palmed and there won’t be any winners except the “House”.
        Sorry for the rant, Rob. Stay warm. My weather station says 26C below right now (30 with wind chill). Time to put another log on the fire.
        Great article Willis.
        Looks like solar makes sense in California with those kind of mid day electricity rates. But where I live, at this time of year, I get less than 3 hours a day of sunlight over the trees south of my house. Pretty much none on December 22.

      • what’s truly insane is the provincial Liberal Government here in Ontario paying $0.80/kWh on 20 year contracts to homeowners/farmers/businesses who bought into rooftop solar photovoltaics (those who could afford the installations, that is). When the going peak rate is roughly $0.18/kWh
        Did you know that the Niagra Falls hydroelectric turbines are running at something like 25% capacity?
        Seems like some ‘renewables’ are more equal than other ‘renewables’…
        No matter, Ontario is waaay past defacto bankruptcy. I’d say, ‘don’t invest’ but hey! Extend and Pretend. It’s the way of the world it seems.

      • (spell check. dang.) “Niagara” Falls. And Wayne D: – thanks I guess for reminding me – The Ontario Carbon Tax coming as well, January 1st. Great windfall for corporations here, who can purchase discount carbon credits from the collapsed world market at far below set price here. Great scheme.
        Follow the money.

      • Tiburon: the provincial Ontario Liberals are funding that preposterously over-subsidized tariff with taxes on your electricity and mine. The cost to produce the electricity is about 3 cents. We are paying 8 to 18 cents depending on the time of day. (Not counting transmission, distribution, fixed infrastructure, taxes, surcharges, etc. etc.) The difference is what’s paying for those vastly overpriced “renewable” installations… and it’s going to get significantly worse with the new carbon taxes in January!

      • I have to laugh whenever someone talks about electricity prices in the teens of cents per KWH being the “highest in the US”. We pay over $0.26/KWH on Kauai and Molokai is suppposedly over $0.30. Hawaii has been a US state for over 57 years…

    • Here in the NW, the government funded (capital) and operated [Corps of Engineers] and distributed [Bonneville Power Authority – a government corporation] hydro power (upwards of 75% of our power used) now costs us between 9 and 10 cents USD per kwh ‘delivered’ to the door. The cost varies depending on the amount of flow that must be diverted if the salmon and steelhead in the Columbia river decide its time to spawn. And my area is served by a PUD [public cooperative – not for profit].

      • See my comment above where I missed a decimal point:
        Energy Charge … . . . . $0.0897/kWh
        Very similar situation, I think.

    • @ Wayne Delbeke
      December 10, 2016 at 7:32 pm
      No, I’m looking at the last Epcor bill which I just got from the mailbox yesterday. It’s not due until Dec. 22. This bill is up about $4.00 from the one before that which was $97 and change. I know the rates are low right now and have been for a while, and other than their stupid carbon tax, the rates are suppose to stay general low for the next four years. Temperature here right now, -20C. The crooks that run the province now, are running it into the ground. I think it’s going to get very expensive to live here, and since I’m retired, we’ve been talking about selling out and moving down to BC where winters are shorter and not as cold. Maybe in the Creston area or something like that.

      • The current door 1 facility only has 3hours of molten salt storage. In the morning there isn’t enough heat left in the tanks to preheat the turbine. Therefore a second heat source of (fossil fuel) must be used to preheat in the morning. The NoorII and III will have 8hours of molten salt storage available and in the morning will probably have enough residual heat left to preheat the turbine.
        Ivanpah has Zero thermal storage. It needs natural gas to preheat the turbine in the morning.

  3. The Guardian gave it a write-up earlier this year:
    They give the final cost as $9 billion:
    “It is a very, very significant project in Africa,” said Mafalda Duarte, the manager of Climate Investment Funds (CIF), which provided $435m (£300m) of the $9bn project’s funding. “Morocco is showing real leadership and bringing the cost of the technology down in the process.”
    Although they are getting a lot for their money:
    “The power station on the edge of the Saharan desert will be the size of the country’s capital city by the time it is finished in 2018, and provide electricity for 1.1 million people.”
    Perhaps they needed a show-case project for their presentations at the Marrakech Climate Change Conference. When you’re the host you have to make some sort of an effort if you want the subsidies to keep rolling in.

  4. The power generation systems in Africa are woeful. I know a lot of Africans, from central Africa through to the North. Many run small businesses and are entrepreneurial. Others will take on humble jobs as cleaners, taxi drivers, aged carers and the like. They are taking the opportunity, here in Australia, to get their kids educated. Awesome peoples – kind and generous.
    The European colonial mindset is still strong amongst some people, except is is intellectual colonialism. The “I know better what is best for you” thinking. If you do a search on Wikipedia for “power stations in Africa” you can see how woeful is the situation for the vast number of African countries. Countries like Ethiopia have enormous hydro resources but most other countries are generating pitiful amounts of power using diesel and other fuel oils. Some decent new coal and/or new gen nuclear with a proper grid would end the famines and wars in Africa, I believe.
    Thanks for the great, if saddening, maddening post Willis.

    • I think it was Matt Ridley who made a statement in his book ‘The rational Optimist’ where he says that wars are fought over food, nothing more.
      Access to cheap energy and technology has allowed our agricultural systems to keep up with our population (so much so that the EU was chucking food down the drain to ensure competition was stifled) but we deprive the developing world of the same fossil fuel energy we used to get rich.
      I have, for many years, struggled with the relative ethics of socialism and capitalism (well, conservatism). I always believed capitalism was the right course, but the altruistic side of socialism also attracted me.
      My conundrum has finally been solved with the juxtaposition of the relative extremes, indeed the apparent flip where it seems capitalism is revealing itself, starkly, as more concerned with people and humanity that the socialism.
      I never got the quote “Any man who is not a socialist at age 20 has no heart. Any man who is still a socialist at age 40 has no head.” as I thought people adopted lifelong political views. Now I’m over 40 (ahem…..well over 40) I’m glad I am now a capitalist (conservative) just as I was in my youth.
      I now despise the stranglehold the left have had over the western world for the last 40 years or so. I despise them for their selfish desires couched in terms of caring for everybody whilst taxation is their principle means of wealth and non-jobs the pinnacle of achievement.
      I’m all for the environment, wild animals, flowers, clean air and water, healthy living etc. But if we can’t afford anything but gruel to eat, we are doing something badly wrong, and socialism is rapidly sending us down the route of a gruel society.
      I will be kneeling down at my bedside tonight, for the first time ever, and praying to an entity I don’t believe in, that Donald Trump is the real deal.
      Dear Lord
      may The Donald
      liberate America and
      encourage prosperity
      The UK is at the start line
      of Europe’s liberation
      Talk to Russia and China
      make the deal
      not insecurity
      their people are praying
      Make trade
      not war.

      • The dilemma you felt between free market capitalism as a mechanism to ensure economic freedom and maximize wealth for all and the altruism of socialism is resolvable as follows. First, altruism MUST BE voluntary. One cannot force (at the point of a gun) someone else to be “charitable.” The result of such force is neither altruism nor charity. Therefore, socialism, which supports the notion that the State can use its legitimate force to compel some to give the fruit of their labor to others has NOTHING to do with altruism — or charity.
        Therefore, for a just, civil, and prosperous society in which people are free to maximize who they can be economically and morally, one needs free market capitalism, a governmental structure that strongly reveals and punishes violence and fraud, and social institutions that encourage charity (which, by definition, must be voluntary).
        I believe it is the mistake of thinking that taking care of those incapable of doing that themselves to a standard each of us deems acceptable should be compelled by the use of legitimate force (i.e., government) is what causes people to feel the dilemma you felt.
        If one believes that forcing others to “give” to those less fortunate (to the standard and degree decided by those wielding that force) is acceptable, then any atrocity is possible.

      • “capitalism is revealing itself, starkly, as more concerned with people and humanity that the socialism.” I sincerely hope it didn’t take you years to come to that realization … I’ll guess your original ideas on capitalism came from a socialist teacher … and your current observation is just as wrong … capitalism is not concerned with humanity … capitalism is about freedom and its thru freedom that people and humanity take care of themselves just fine … just stop with the virtue signaling … take care of yourself and your family and friends … nobody else needs your virtuous help 🙂

      • I’m an American. Our press loves to conflate crony capitalism with capitalism (and they are no where near the same). The Donald has made many promises. If he tries to achieve a small percentage of them, he will go down in history as a great president. When one looks at his Cabinet selections and transition team appointments, one can be shaken by the immensity of the problem he seems to be trying to solve. I was slow to come to backing him – and frankly, this was the first presidential election I did not support monetarily, because 1) he had no chance, and 2) he was probably blowing smoke.
        But these appointments. They dwarf his words. He’s acting like a company CEO. He may make things happen. And if he does, he may change our lives – the world – dramatically for the better. He may achieve his silly-seeming rhetoric.
        Then again, maybe he will turn into a politician, and we’re all screwed as usual. “Same shit, different day.”

    • Go to Lagos, Nigeria, to see what “renewable nirvana” will look like when people deploy their own power systems.

    • “Patrick Ernst December 10, 2016 at 3:26 pm
      Countries like Ethiopia have enormous hydro resources…”
      There is a hydro plant on the Blue Nile, near the “Whispering Falls”, which diverts ~75% of water to generation. Downstream, Ethiopia is building the biggest hydro plant in Afica. Dwarfs Aswan. Countries downstream are a little concerned.

    • Well, Gene, we will run diesel generators here in the UK. Of course.
      Now, I like ‘environmentally friendly’ solutions. Most of my rain water goes into soakaways here on the South Downs, south of London.
      But they need to be cost-effective ones.
      I get a bit back fro the sewage company because I use soakaways
      I’ve been to Ouzazate [a Marrakesh holiday day-trip in about 2005] Big film studio there, but also does get overcast – Atlantic clouds.
      Name plate versus Actual. And if they have to run a Diesel to keep it warm – the green starts looking very green [with pictures of past Presidents . . . . . . .]
      No – not snarko directo.
      At all!

    • Costs will be paid by buying a printing press for each solar plant. Employees, repairs, operating costs, and interest charges will be paid for in cash, offset by sale of power to users. A very small fraction of the output energy will be used to power the printing press, making the plant self-sustaining. Trump and his fellow oil industry capitalist minions will probably say this is all bogus, but don’t be fooled. Global warming think of the children robust Koch brothers Hitler 97% Putin ocean acidification dead coral malaria rising sea level extinctions dandruff Zika wooga-wooga monster…

    • Yeah, it’s like “lets double the costs” and “lets halve the price”, and “government should give money for this”.
      The middle class, not totally convinced on the idea, is still forced to pay it all.

      • Matthew
        Most calculations ‘they’ make include a rather variable factor linked [indirectly] with the cost of fresh unicorn droppings.
        Thus, magically – QED.
        Free translation of QED is –
        ‘The answer you wanted/desired/lusted after can be delivered . . . . and IS! Just like that!’
        [Apologies to Tommy Cooper, Comic Genius.]
        I do futures in unicorn droppings, fresh, fermented or dried.

  5. There’s not a central solar plant anywhere in the world that can stand on rational economics. One must resort to a perverted “good versus evil, benefits/cost analysis” in order to justify the awful things. And one must not include among those costs the backup and/or energy storage capital required to accommodate intermittent and variable solar power output.

    • And if, as we are assured, the climate is already beyond the ‘tipping point’ these mad schemes will be useless anyway as the climate will create hurricanes, droughts, dust storms etc. so they won’t work anyway.
      What planet do these people live on?

  6. Now all they need is advanced grid storage and transmission capability to actually use the electricity that might be intermittently generated.

    • I once facetiously proposed a data storage system that would store information by placing it into endlessly circulating packets on a token ring LAN. Perhaps a similar scheme could be used for the power gnerated here by building more or thicker wires!

  7. I thought that style plant looked familiar. It is a concentrated solar plant (CSP) from Abengoa. That Spanish company is in bankruptcy, its US subsidiary is in liquidation with the US government trying to recover $165 million of the $2.2 billion Abengoa received in guarantees and subsidies from the US alone. Great deal for the US. Great deal for Morocco. NOTs.
    For economics of CSP and PV solar, see previous guest post Grid Solar at Judith’s Climate Etc.

  8. What’s wrong with you ?
    Why are you so worried about cost ?
    Don’t you know it’s OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY ?
    There’s an infinite supply of OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY.

  9. Increased resilience to natural disasters, commodity price volatility, and economic crises
    Good to know that Morocco doesn’t have any natural disasters that will affect it as much as they would a coal fired plant.

  10. Accelerated innovation, through correction of market failures in knowledge
    Enhanced efficiency, through correction of non-environmental market failures
    well, at least they plan on learning from their mistakes
    So they set this thing up…no knowing what they were doing….but plan on learning how to do it later

  11. ” [At] least it seems no US taxpayer money is going into this debacle.”
    I think that’s not precisely true. The U.S. spends 3.3% of GDP on military spending. Germany spends just 1.2% and France only 2.2%. We cover much of the cost of protecting them, and of policing the world, which leaves them money to blow on boondoggles like this.

    • Thanks, Thomas. How much we spend overall is our own choice. How much we spend on NATO is a different question. The new Secretary of Defense and the rest will readjust the NATO burden to fall more equitably. Trump said he’d do it, and he will.

      • Willis said:
        “Trump said he’d do it, and he will.”
        Well, Trump also said he’d prosecute Hillary Clinton…. We’ll see, but “because Trump said he would” doesn’t count for much.

      • Philip Schaeffer December 11, 2016 at 12:59 am

        Willis said:

        “Trump said he’d do it, and he will.”

        Well, Trump also said he’d prosecute Hillary Clinton…. We’ll see, but “because Trump said he would” doesn’t count for much.

        Readjusting the NATO burden was a part of his stated platform. Locking Hillary up was a throwaway campaign line.
        Let me also note that the President cannot say to the FBI “Don’t investigate Joe Bloggs” or any other citizen. That’s up to the FBI, which is totally independent in that regard … and which also has investigations of the Clinton Foundation going in five cities …
        So regardless of what the President says, (1) there won’t be a new email investigation barring new evidence, and (2) the FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation will continue.
        That means that the President-Elect gets a freebie—he gets to be the good guy, magnanimous, the bigger man … and the investigation of the Clinton Foundation goes on regardless. It’s a win-win.

      • Willis,
        Do you read the Dilbert bloke – Scott Adams?
        His blog is interesting.
        Pre-election and post-election Trumps are different animals, if I understand right.
        Not sure how that will play in middle America [likewise pro-anti-Brexiteering Remoaners here].
        Probably needs some fidelity to campaign statements.
        Not total [although “prosecute Hillary Clinton” may be reasonably elided. May, I said.].
        I know we ‘Live in Interesting Times’ – but not sure I want to enjoy that!
        Just like being warm.

  12. I almost regret eschewing the “take advantage of dumb people” business model in my youth. It is the largest market, after all.
    I was afraid I wouldn’t sleep well at night. I don’t anyway, but I’m also not rich.

  13. The promotion says it will power Europe. The problem is the same as all these remote projects, the distance you can transmit electricity without excessive line loss. From the location to Malaga in Spain is approximately 1000 km. This is at the limit of transmission, even if you do as Russia and Manitoba Canada did, and convert the power to DC to reduce line loss. The problem with that is the power lost in the conversion and the further loss when you reconvert to AC for the European system.
    I can see African window cleaners being busy, but few others.

  14. The wiki page says Noor1 is an 160 MW powerplant with expected output of 370 GWh/ year. Is your stated figure of 670 GWh/year a simple typing error or is the wiki numer in error?

  15. What about….
    How do they keep all the sand off the panels! And the associate cost!
    Don’t forget its smack bang in the Sahara Desert. And what happens during sandstorms? How many days or weeks is this plant off-line! And Morocco gets lots of sandstorms.
    So I have to ask…who is getting the pay-off on this? Where is the money going?
    In 10 years time, Noor will be buried under 10ft of sand, and forgotten.

  16. As Margaret Thatcher so famously said
    “The trouble with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”

  17. You also need to include the cost of the Accounts department: bureaucrats,especially financial bureaucrats, don’t come cheap!

  18. I wonder how they will stand up to sand storms? The green house of cards is on the verge of collapsing. It’s all about wind – hot air, that is! 😉

    • Many will get “Etched” to the point of needing to be replaced. Though it will provide government jobs for mirror maintenance.

  19. The overriding question is: Where did this idea that intermittent power from solar or wind would ever be economical come from? Isn’t obvious that when the intermittent power stops, then a fossil or nuclear power plant must come on line to make up the decrease? And since 80%+ of the cost of power is capital and labor, then the cost of the power plants sitting idle is enormous! The intermittent power is worth the avoided energy cost or less then 2 cents/kilowatt hr.
    John Maulden, a really smart economist and commentator, was recently lauding the morocco solar plant! It’s like the elite of our counry can do simple calculations with a pencil and paper.

    • “The overriding question is: Where did this idea that intermittent power from solar or wind would ever be economical come from?”
      Yeah, who thought this was a good idea? How many more billions of dollars will they spend before they figure out wind and solar thermal are deadends?

  20. … much of it a gift from guilty CO2-obsessed European liberals)…
    Now, why do I doubt that? Why do I think that a gift from hard-pressed European tax-payers, diverted to Africans by guilt-obsessed liberals (after taking their cut) is much more likely?

    • Same thing. The gift from European Liberals statement just left out the obvious that NO Liberal ever spends his OWN money – See above quote attributed to Margaret Thatcher about running out of other peoples money.

    • Indeed, dodgy, your description is more accurate … I stole it and put it into the head post.

  21. Thought I recognized that type. Is a concentrating solar plant (CSP) from Abengoa. The hopeless economics of same were detailed in Climate Etc. Guest Post Grid Solar. Note that Abengoa is in Spanish bankruptcy. Its US affiliate is in bankruptcy dissolution proceedings, with the US gov trying to recover $165 milliion of the $2.2 billion in grants and subsidies Abengoa received from the US.
    iF the recovery succeeds, what a great deal for US taxpayers, NOT.

  22. There are lots of places where photovoltaic (PV) makes sense. My favourite example is the parking ticket dispensers in our nearby metropolis. They are right downtown where there are lots of electric lines. The thing is that hooking up to the grid would cost >$500 for each dispenser. The PV array is about a foot by a foot and it plus a battery and circuitry probably cost a couple of hundred bucks.
    Having said the above, please note that there are zero solar panels on my house. If I lived three miles from the nearest grid connection, there would be. Solar has its place.

    • What’s a parking meter?
      Ever notice how goverment can justify spending tax dollars to collect more tax dollars.
      If you lived off grid you would have an ICE driven generator. Changed oil and filters on our 6.5 kw propane generator.
      It is easy to live without electricity. Billions do it everyday.

  23. “That’s good news, because we need it to line Elon Musk’s pockets …” Elon gets a lot more than $3.9B and returns nothing. $22M/y is at least something even with 150years of payback. I hope this doesn’t look like approve of the solar plant!

    • Gary, of those $22M they have to buy oil for turbine preheat for at least $10M/y and I am sure there is use for those $12M/y in that station.
      It was stressed in atricle that the payback is merely theoretical.
      By the way, this Norwegain-Germany cable project power loss on 1400 MW max power is about 100 MW just in copper.
      It is twice the total power of the Moroccon project.

  24. Interesting the difference in CSP plant costs when building in Morroco.
    The prototype Accione CSP design (Nevada Solar One in 2007) cost $266MM and produces134MMkWh annually.
    Noor is another Accione project, but done without American assistance, completed at a reported $3900MM and produces 370MMkWh.
    Must be a lot of room under that table.

  25. Willis
    What’s your source for “Now, in the US a power plant typically sells its product for something like six cents US per kilowatt-hour. Multiplying that by 370 GWhr/year gives us an annual value of the energy produced of about $22,000,000 dollars per year.”?
    Your quoted 6 cents/kWh is roughly 50% the numbers I find with a couple quick web searches (https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_5_6_a and http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2011/10/27/141766341/the-price-of-electricity-in-your-state)
    Assuming 12-13 cents is correct, that’s $44,000,000/year – a material change, but no where near enough to impact your 100% correct conclusion of an unbelievably stupid economic investment (my words…).

    • Javert Chip:
      Both those tables are end-user rates. The power generating plant sells to the grid operator at wholesale rates. And both tables list rates for Georgia that are higher than actual. Here are standard Georgia Power residential rates. Highest rate during winter months is $0.047641 / kWH; in the summer it’s $0.097273. GP is obviously paying less than that to the generation facility.

      • I know that one summer the power system that I worked at was making money in large amounts selling power to some states that had their local units offline for repairs. We were selling it at $50/MW-hr or $0.05/KW-hr. We sold it locally at much lower rates. The left coast and the NE all pay a lot more for their power, all those regulations drive costs up.

  26. You are too kind, Mr. Willis. This Potemkin village of a power plant does not fail because of meany harsh economics. It fails because of physics.

  27. Nameplate capacity 160MW, expected avg capacity 42.24MW, for a load factor of 26.4%. At a cost comparable with a nuclear power plant with nameplate capacity of ~1GW and load factor of ~99%.
    And as for supplying _all_ of Europe’s power need, I guess if “all of Europe” is approximately 80,000 small homes or a dozen small factories, that’s almost accurate. 🙂

  28. I am glad that enormous fossil fuel reserves, enough for centuries, now unlocked with new technologies, will bridge us through to the rapidly coming, clean, inexhaustible, Fusion Energy freedom,

      • The left need poverty to be relevant. What is the good to the left of a well fed, housed, educated, and healthy populace? Environmentalism is just one excuse for the state to keep us poor and, as an added benefit, to virtue-police all aspects of life.
        Fusion is the green’s worst nightmare, and standard fission nuclear power generation their next-worst. Fracking third, oil and gas fourth. The only power sources that are acceptable are those that don’t work.

      • Mark, how true are your words. I never cease to be amazed that, despite many of the left loonies having a first-class university education, their brains all seem to turn to mush when faced with reality. I know it’s more to do with ‘faith’ than anything realistic, but it’s still almost incomprehensible that they seem to never be able to see the bottom line.

      • Mark can you just imagine if all the money spend ( and will be spend in the future) on these projects would have been spend on drilling water wells and improving agriculture in these countries on a local scale? Add in a few schools, hospitals and generators for running small scale electrical grids? This whole solar scheme is a sick, twisted vision by people that have no clue of economics and are truly destroying livelihoods of tens of millions of people.
        Socialism is the most dangerous “philosophy” on the planet.
        What happened to the Drax power plant in the UK is also a travesty, Changing it from a coal fired plant to a wood pellet plant that needs to be imported from the USA using bunker oil burning ( the worst ) ships and then moving it via train , lorries etc should be investigated and the people responsible should be convicted, jailed and fined heavily. When I talk with family in the EU they have not got a clue what I am talking about. The MSM should be prosecuted as well as far as I am concerned ( sorry about the rant)

    • Fusion also leaves trail of radioactive elements behind. The greens will object.
      And, after all, the highest deaths from radiation induced cancer are down to one fusion reactor.
      Its called ‘the sun’….

  29. 1st Develop dispatchable solar to be cheaper than coal/gas/nuclear
    This is why we need hard nosed life cycle costing with RD&D focus on making dispatchable solar power cheaper than coal, gas and nuclear, regardless of fuzzy climate projections. See recommendations by Bjorn Lomborg and Copenhagen Consensus as the most cost effective investment – NOT subsidies for current uncompetitive systems like this in Morocco.
    Make it cheaper to go green

    Globally, we will spend $2.5 trillion on subsidies for wind and solar over the next 25 years — and they will still need subsidizing, according to the IEA. The impact will be a trivial reduction in temperature rise by 2100 of 0.03 degrees Fahrenheit. What if, instead of spending these trillions of dollars trying to push the deployment of inefficient solar and wind, we devoted ourselves to making green energy cheaper?
    If we could make solar and wind cheaper than fossil fuels, we wouldn’t have to force (or subsidize) anyone to stop burning coal and oil. Everyone would shift to the cheaper and cleaner alternatives.
    This could take a decade or it could take four. But the truth is that, as long as we invest mostly in today’s inefficient technology that we know doesn’t work, we will not get much closer.

    • Making it cheaper does not solve the intermittency problem. Neither solar nor wind can be made into base load power. There is one green power source that makes sense and that is nuclear. If we poured that money in building prototype nuke plants with the new designs we would be spending it wisely. Maybe the thorium cycle plants can be made to work.

      • James Kramer False. Read what I wrote. “Develop DISPATCHABLE solar”. That implies cheap thermal storage sufficient to provide base load regional realiability. Nuclear is an alternative option. Fund both and let the best win. Maybe a some mix of the two.

      • “Making it cheaper does not solve the intermittency problem.”
        Making it cheaper doesn’t solve the problem of the millions of birds and bats killed by windmills and solar thermal.

      • This is an exceptionally sunny place…
        Plus of course Morocco is building solar CSP which will provided stored heat for overnight generation…

      • David L. Hagen Your links are interesting but thermal storage is not the same as electric energy storage. Did you think people would miss the conflation of two separate concepts. If not, explain how stored solar heat is going to be “dispatched” from Africa to Europe.
        You could take your own advice, especially the first part: Think.

      • “Griff December 11, 2016 at 8:44 am
        This is an exceptionally sunny place…”
        Australia is sunny too, most times. But it’s 9pm here in Sydney right now and I just looked outside the window, and I can’t see too much sunshine. And I see solar rooftop installations pointing everywhere but north!

    • David L. Hagen:
      I can’t access that link without signing up, but can you point to an working CSP plant that actually delivers fully dispatchable power? Ivanpah is delivering about about 70% of promised output and currently uses a fair amount of natural gas to keep the salt hot during part of the night. And they sell power at $200/MWh, which is way more than coal or CCGT units get.
      “Make renewables cheaper” sounds wonderful, but performance has been lacking to date.

    • David L. Hagen:

      “Develop DISPATCHABLE solar”

      There is no theory as to how such a thing might even be possible.
      Let me explain:
      An internal combustion engine runs at ~25% thermodynamic efficiency.
      I could use thermodynamics to design an engine running at 65% efficiency. Now the problem is one of engineering, particularly materials which can handle the extreme temperatures and stresses. But at least it is theoretically possible.
      Solar is:
      1) diffuse
      2) intermittent
      We know that to overcome these limitations requires a lot of money and a lot of gear.
      Nobody has any idea how to get to dispatchable solar in a system which produces more power than it took to build the plant in the first place.
      No amount of “hard nosed life cycle costing with RD&D” is going to change that. Solar is just too far down the hole.

    • Make it cheaper to go green
      If Solar or Wind was large screen TV’s the answer would be obvious. When TV’s were $10,000 almost no one had one. Now they are $1000 or less and everyone has one.
      Imagine that instead we had subsidized manufacturers that produced $10,000 large screen TV’s, with $9000 subsidies, so that it only cost $1000 to buy a TV after the government subsidy. Why would manufacturers ever get the cost down? Why would the government care, the $9000 subsidy would be very popular, so long as it was added to the debt not the tax rate.

    • Dispatchable solar.
      Okay…is solar cheaper than say …nuclear?
      Nope,. So adding storage to it will make it cheaper?….
      Or perhaps you mean storing heat and then using a heat engine to extract power…
      Oh dear. heat engine likely to be less than 50% efficient, so double the size and cost….
      Whichever way you cook it, solar plus storage of some sort is always going to be way more expensive than nuclear. To the point where it may not even repay the energy invested in its total construction.

      • David L. Hagen, your link is to a patent application for a CCGT system. Do you care to explain what this has to do with solar power or are you just posting random goggle searches that you do not understand?

      • David L. Hagen, your link is to a patent application for a CCGT system. Do you care to explain what this has to do with solar power or are you just posting random goggle searches that you do not understand?

      • Ray in SC. 1) Read just a little further and you will find that I am the primary inventor (who wrote the patent) and so know something about the topic! 2) Then if you could indulge us read just a bit further and think about my comment, you will realize that it is NOT a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) since it does NOT have a steam turbine or Rankine cycle. 3) Concentrating solar power systems can generate high temperature heat sufficient to heat the gas to drive a gas turbine.

      • Dav09 Generally agree on benefits of CO2. Important but separate issue.
        Solution. Seek the greatest life cycle benefit /cost ratio. Consider all benefits and costs. See The Right Climate Stuff, for a validated climate model. (IPCC’s models are not validated. CO2 Science documents benefits from many plant studies.

  30. Just when the Muslim stranglehold on oil supplies is broken they talk about giving them control over electricity .

  31. Here’s another example of the big renewable energy project.
    In Iowa, Midamerican Energy Co. owned by Berkshire Hathaway/Warren Buffett announced a $3.6 billion 2000 MW wind project named Wind XI. The announcement said they will build 1000 wind turbines over a two year period.
    With the federal construction tax credit and state/federal production tax credits, the owner will get his investment back in 10 years. The full cost to the American taxpayers may eventually be $5.6 billion.
    Iowa customers will not receive a rate increase for some indeterminable period. Hopefully, the current electric rate will cover all operating and maintenance expenses of the project.
    I’m sure the Iowa customers of MidAmerican really appreciate the generosity of the American taxpayers.
    Maybe Willis can do a more complete, full examination of this project

  32. On California energy costs… my friend in Redding works minimum wage and pays $200 a month for water and electricity. Her neighbors disconnected from the grid. On recent cold days I hear their cars running in the driveway a fair amount. At the nearby Safeway many folks sit in their cars in the early morning with engines running.

  33. The main problem with wind and solar is the pathetically low energy density. Look at the size of this thing! 1,400,000 square meters – the size of 200 football fields! If we adopt this approach to solve the climate change non-problem, we’ll run out of planet.

  34. So, the refugee crises are powered by the clean, green blight. Something similar happened in China that led to the progress of urban ghettos.

  35. What do they do at night, beside burn fossil fuel to keep the lights on and the tele and fridge running?

  36. I know this is wrong on so many levels, but: if there were a nice volcanic outbreak now-now, that dims the sun for a few months or so, that would put an end to this nonsense, because people would ask themselves why they keep shutting down nuclear power and build inherently unreliable solar…

  37. Solar PV electrical generation should ALWAYS be gathered at the point of use. NEVER centrally generated. Even then, the economics are still very shaky.
    I reside in a nuclear(30 to 40 year old mature plants) electrical generation dominant area with a sprinkling of wind for show. Real time hourly energy rates usually hover around $0.03/kW-hr with the final energy portion to around $0.05/kW-hr. Adding in transmission, delivery, taxes, etc. brings the final bill to about $0.13 to $0.14/kW-hr.

  38. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinkley_Point_C_nuclear_power_station#Cost_to_consumers
    New Hinkely Point Nuke ( assuming they ever manage to build one of these reactors ) is currently supposed to 18bn GBP . Count on a ten year over-run and costs doubling that in view of the Flamandville and Finnish fiascos where they have been attempting to build the same design for the last decade.
    Wholesale ‘strike price’ has been agreed at twice the current market value : £95 per MWh as opposed to £45. That is index linked for the next 60 years.
    Bottom line consumer gets screwed whatever the technology chose. Don’t be fooled into thinking this has something to do with solar.

  39. oh..I thought the Saudis had pulled out of this project sometime back? Forgot about the EU twots…so I paid toward it in UK. Thats along with roads to nowhere, race tracks that don’t race and airports that don’t errumm…air – port….in Europe. And there’s more I know!

  40. Nice post. I think question #21 was meant to be “Section 1222”. Not “Sec 1221”. 1221 is dead but Section 1222, the Department of Energy and Plains & Eastern Clean Line, now that’s a scandal waiting to explode.
    The DoE is “partnering” with a private company to provide the hammer of eminent domain to create a 750 mile powerline from Oklahoma to Tennessee for “clean” wind energy. The TVA doesn’t even want or need the energy but the DoE is determined to take the land with eminent domain. Interestingly, the DoE is get a royalty, tax, or kickback from the company for providing the eminent domain. The landowners get “fair market value” for their property.
    The #2 guy at Plains and Eastern Clean Line worked for the DoE in the Bush Administration when Section 1222 was created and his company is the only company to use this law since the Energy Policy Act was passed. He was the DoE man for transmission then and the benefactor of the law now. The DoE is indeed a swamp that needs draining.
    I’m hearing there is a different version of the DoE Questionnaire. Questions 57 and 58 also pertaining to Section 1222. Section 1221 was killed in the courts as unconstitutional.

  41. Norway and Germany are using a similar sum just on 140000T of copper cable to connect Norwegian hydroelectric with German wind and solar. Norwegian electricity prices will go up once it is operating but at least the green battery of Europe will be connected!

  42. the plant cost $3.9 billion dollars US ($3.9E+9, much of it a gift from hard-pressed European taxpayers diverted by guilty CO2-obsessed European liberals), and it produces 370 gigawatt-hours per year
    Solar energy is expensive, but $3.9 billion dollars US for 370 gigawatt-hours seems so far off that I had to check, and as far as I can see, Wikipedia is wrong here.
    First some facts:
    Noor Power Station is being built in four phases
    Noor 1: 160 MW nameplate capacity, expected annual generation 370 GWh
    Noor 2: 200 MW nameplate capacity, expected annual generation 600 GWH
    Noor 3: 150 MW nameplate capacity, expected annual generation 500 GWH/Year
    Noor 4: Photovolatic with 80 MW nameplate capacity, no expected annual generation given.
    Fortune.com writes about the project
    “Once completed, Noor will cost 2.2 billion euros ($2.45 billion) and generate 580 MW.”
    That means Fortune estimate 2.45 billion USD for all four phases while Wikipedia claims that the number is 3.9 billion for just phase 1.
    One of them has to be wrong, and Wikipedia is the most likely culprit.
    Wikipedia link to an article in The Guardian as a reference. The article in The Guardian does indeed present the number 3.9 billion, but it is not clear from the article whether this is limited to just one phase, or to the entire power plant. The most plausible explanation is that Wikipedia is wrong here.

  43. the plant cost $3.9 billion dollars US ($3.9E+9, much of it a gift from hard-pressed European taxpayers diverted by guilty CO2-obsessed European liberals), and it produces 370 gigawatt-hours per year

    Solar energy is expensive, but $3.9 billion dollars US for 370 gigawatt-hours seems so far off that I had to check, and as far as I can see, Wikipedia is wrong here.
    First some facts:
    Noor Power Station is being built in four phases
    Noor 1: 160 MW nameplate capacity, expected annual generation 370 GWh
    Noor 2: 200 MW nameplate capacity, expected annual generation 600 GWH
    Noor 3: 150 MW nameplate capacity, expected annual generation 500 GWH/Year
    Noor 4: Photovolatic with 80 MW nameplate capacity, no expected annual generation given.
    Fortune.com writes about the project
    “Once completed, Noor will cost 2.2 billion euros ($2.45 billion) and generate 580 MW.”
    That means Fortune estimate 2.45 billion USD for all four phases while Wikipedia claims that the number is 3.9 billion for just phase 1.
    One of them has to be wrong, and Wikipedia is the most likely culprit.
    Wikipedia link to an article in The Guardian as a reference. The article in The Guardian does indeed present the number 3.9 billion, but it is not clear from the article whether this is limited to just one phase, or to the entire power plant. The most plausible explanation is that Wikipedia is wrong here.

    • Wiki actually gives the total cost for all four phases of the project as $9billion, which doesn’t seem so crazy when you read the description of all phases. The real uncertainty is this:
      “Ouarzazate Solar Power Station (OSPS) – Phase 1, also referred to as Noor 1 CSP, has an installed capacity of 160 MW. It was connected to the Moroccan power grid on 5 February 2016.[8] It covers 450 hectares (1,112 acres) and is EXPECTED to deliver 370 GWh per year”
      The emphasis is mine. It will be interesting to see what the real figure is on 5 Feb 2017 – any takers on 50%?

      • Nevertheless, Fortune writes that this include other regions in Morocco with at total effect of almost four times the total Noor Power plant:

        “Morocco aims to expand at other desert regions to 2 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020 at a cost of $9 billion

        Wikipedias reference for the 9 billion figure is the same Guardian article.

      • Jan, always good to hear from you, and even better that you check the numbers. You say:

        Solar energy is expensive, but $3.9 billion dollars US for 370 gigawatt-hours seems so far off that I had to check, and as far as I can see, Wikipedia is wrong here.

        I find a variety of numbers for the cost ranging from one to four billion … but what I don’t find is any real disagreement on delivered cost, at near to twenty cents per kilowatt.
        If we assume that the cost is only a quarter of what Wiki says, then the 177-year payout with no O&M costs, no interest costs, no wheeling costs, and no avoided income drops to a mere forty-five years or so … be still my beating heart.

      • Hey Willis. It might be a good idea to contact them and get some more information about costs. As it stands now your article is making claims about the time to repay the investment that seems very unlikely to be true.
        [Philip, Your claim of “very unlikely” stems from nothing other than opinion; pot,kettle. Do the work yourself if you want to make a valid point. Otherwise it’s just noise. -Anthony]

      • Philip Schaeffer December 13, 2016 at 5:11 pm

        Hey Willis. It might be a good idea to contact them and get some more information about costs. As it stands now your article is making claims about the time to repay the investment that seems very unlikely to be true.

        Mmmm … well, the analysis I quoted above says quite clearly that Noor 1 is NOT a money-maker, viz:

        Both cost-effectiveness analysis and cost-benefit analysis indicate that the project is not economically justified under prevailing economic conditions.

        Next, it is extremely rare for a feel-good solar project to come anywhere near its posted claims … you are welcome to seek the promoters out and ask their opinion and believe their numbers.
        Me, not so much. That’s like asking your barber if you need a haircut …

      • Willis said:
        “Mmmm … well, the analysis I quoted above says quite clearly that Noor 1 is NOT a money-maker, viz:”
        “Next, it is extremely rare for a feel-good solar project to come anywhere near its posted claims … you are welcome to seek the promoters out and ask their opinion and believe their numbers.
        Me, not so much. That’s like asking your barber if you need a haircut …
        I never said anything about that. I just questioned your calculations on time to pay back the construction costs, using 3.9 billion as the cost, and 370 GWhr/year power production. Do you still believe the cost of the first phase to be 3.9 billion? It seems to me that you should substitute 537 million for your 3.9 billion figure in your calculations.
        What say you?

      • Anthony said:
        “Philip, Your claim of “very unlikely” stems from nothing other than opinion; pot,kettle. Do the work yourself if you want to make a valid point. Otherwise it’s just noise. -Anthony”
        Well, if I had written the article, and someone said to me “hey, those figures look so far off that I’m pretty sure something has gotten mixed up”, I like to think I’d go and ask a primary source so that I could correct myself if I was indeed wrong, especially when, as a appears to be the case here, that there is confusion amongst the tertiary sources being used.

    • Willis-
      Thanks for another interesting post.
      I think Jan is correct that the costs you quoted may not reliable.
      I found another source (that covers all types of power generation projects) with cost details here-
      Noor Ouarzazate Solar Complex, Morocco
      “Phase one of the project involved the construction of a 160MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant named Noor I, while phase two involves the construction of the 200MW Noor II CSP plant and the 150MW Noor III CSP plant, and Phase Three will involve the construction of the Noor IV CSP plant.”
      “The overall investment for Phase One is estimated to reach €500m ($537m approximately).”
      “The overall investment for Phase Two is estimated to reach $2bn,…”
      So, Phase I provides 160MW nameplate for $537M, or $3.35/Wpk.
      Phase II provides 350MW nameplate for $2000M, or $5.70/Wpk.
      Strange that the larger Phase II costs more per Watt (peak) than the smaller Phase I.
      I think these costs are closer to reality. However, they are listed as ‘estimates,’ so actual totals will likely be higher.
      The estimated total energy delivered of 370 GWhr per year from the Phase I array of 160 MW assumes 6.5 hours/day at full output power. This seems optimistic.

  44. Higher in the thread Piper Paul says “they ‘ ll put it in a greenhouse” to protect it from sandstorms.
    Early in my climate change journey, I remember suggesting my former employer look at this type of solar power because of oil and gas installations in Algeria, Libya, Egypt. Keeping the installation clean and transmission costs were then, as now, the big problems.
    However, there is a company doing exactly what PP suggests: Glasspoint solar has small solar plants which are suitable for powering oil and gas fields in the desert. They put the whole thing inside a greenhouse which is Victorian age technology, but potentially useful in this case. It obviates the problem for cleaning mirrors, and cleaning greenhouse walls and roofs is much easier. Secondly, it means that the mirrors which reflect sunlight on to a central water-filled tube, do not have to be strong enough to withstand wind. Apparently this cuts their cost significantly, (they can be gossamer thin), and the cost of moving them to properly reflect the sun as it moves through the sky during the day, is also reduced.
    I know they have installations for PDO (Shell Total Partex Oman government JV) in Oman.

  45. Update on that. Apparently, the steam generated is not used to generate electricity, but rather for injection in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) schemes.

  46. And the Eurocrats are ever so pleased with themselves, built a new office block for themselves.
    A snip at 321Mega-Euros I’m (not) sure.
    As usual, am struggling here but cannot see my fault.
    I wonder why they need all these mirrors, boiling oil, pipework, melted salt, heliostats etc. Not much to go wrong there is there, certainly not in a desert miles from anywhere. I digress,
    Why don’t they use the well understood Green House Gas Effect? Is this not where long wavelength (low energy photons) from The Surface of the Earth – sometimes referred to as ‘dirt’) impinge upon Green House Gas Molecules and cause them to assume a higher temperature than they previously were?
    btw, contrary to first impression, it is NOT what goes on in the microwave oven in your kitchen.
    Then, all they’d need are a few tanks/gas-bags or stores of some sort, filled with Green House Gas. The long wave photons coming off the desert would warm the tanks of Green House Gas – and the rest is easy. People like Carnot, Stirling, Rankine etc had it all sorted.
    And the great thing is, even deserts don’t get as cold as zero Kelvin overnight so this thing would work All The Time. Even at night.
    What’s not like to like…………..

    • Unfortunately, most of the so-called educated classes around the world are economically illiterate.

  47. Willis writes

    Another beautiful green dream ship wrecked on a reef of hard economics. It least it seems no US taxpayer money is going into this debacle. That’s good news, because we need it to line Elon Musk’s pockets …

    Trifling when compared to other US debacle money…

    The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by The Washington Post.


  48. “Accelerated innovation, through correction of market failures in knowledge”
    You know it’s going to be a massive market failure but you need to make sure about that knowledge? I think these people have confused accelerated innovation with depreciation but it’s got me beat- where’s the tax saving angle?

  49. I believe that solar panels these days have a lifespan that is rather hard to define. They lose output capacity as the years roll by. I seem to remember 80% capacity at around the 20 year mark. I doubt that one would want to keep them much beyond 25 years because of loss of capacity. Maximum stated output capacity (nameplate) (at high noon, no clouds or smog, not hot temps on panels) is never equal to actual capacity, due to a variety of reasons. As I recall, a 6KW solar roof never outputs more than 5KW, often around 4.5 KW at its maximum (high noon). A molten salt nuclear reactor can easily produce power at less than 3 cents per kWhr (no fuel costs, few workers required, no pressures in the reactor much above atmospheric pressure, no need to shutdown for refueling, giving it a capacity 100% of its nameplate capacity [ verses around 20% of nameplate capacity for a solar panel] can be located in cities, very close to ultimate users as small or large modular reactors). Lifespan of the molten salt reactor depends upon the design, some probably in excess of 80 years, others about the same as curtrent light water conventional nuclear reactors – about 60+ years. Cost of construction of a molten salt reactors varies with design – most expensive design will cost about two thirds the cost of a conventional nuclear reactor or about $3 billion per GW [1000MW], cheaper Moltex design probably less than half(around $2 billion) but with somewhat higher maintenance costs because the design requires sacrificial reactor walls that needs replacement about every 6 years.
    I’m uncertain how many times the solar panels will need replacement (often due to loss of capacity) during the lifespan of either type of molten salt reactor, but it will be “more than several” I believe.
    But comparing the cost of solar panels to 24/7 power production technologies is absurd – they are in no way comparable. Unreliable power (from wind/solar) is ALWAYS much less valuable because of its very nature, which requires duplicative power capacity on the grid, up and running and ready to go when the unreliable capacity is reduced (winds dies down, or gets too strong for the turbine to handle, or clouds roll over solar panels, or the sun goes down or loses its irradiance due to time of day, etc) . This is happening right now in the midwest, where utilities are buying significant amounts of wind power and buying much less from nuclear plants Conventional nuclear plants are designed as baseload plants, running 24/7 at virtually 100% capacity. They cannot ramp up and down quickly
    and when all of their power is not bought by the utility, their cost per kWhr produced is increased almost directly proportional to the loss of sales – i.e. a 50% reduction in sales leads to twice the production costs of a kWhr. They cannot reduce fuel costs to any extent becasue 1) fuel for a reactor is cheap – 3/4th of a cent per kWhr 2) they cannot ramp up and down to enjoy an fuel reductions. Nuclear operators have threatened to shut down some of their under-used reactors because of the losses they have sustained for the past several years due to lost sales – this threat has teeth, because that would leave the midwestern utilities with insufficient 24/7 capacity and lead to power blackouts. So the midwestern utilities now wlil have to pay the nuclear operators much higher prices for their reduced output in order that the nuclear plants can stop their losses and keep operating. That means higher utility bills for the consumer. The cost of unreliable power can only be calculated by taking account of all of the costs that using such power entail for a grid that requires 24/7 power availability.
    That AWAYS means duplicative capacity and that would be true even if every renewable provider had significant storage capacity (which would increase their costs signficantly) – storage capacity merely stores power – it cannot produce power and loss of wind or sun irradiance is not limited to 24 or 48 hours, or whatever length of time can be supplied by stored energy. And after that loss of stored energy, the renewable capacity is reduced during the period that exhausted or drained storage capacity needs to be restored.
    The whole problem here is that the sun only shines part of the day, and varies enormously in its enegy depending upon the time of day and atmospheric conditions. So solar power is not reliaible and even has an actual output capacity that varies when the sun is shining. Worst of all possible energy worlds, one might say.
    Solar and wind will never be competitive with the new nuclear technology of molten salt reactors.
    No matter how one views the issue – cost, carbon reduction, safety , side benefits (land use, reduction of nuclear wastes to a “No concern” state) and side penalties (bird/bat killings) molten salt reactors are far and away superior to renewable power providers, regardless of what those renewable providers might do in the way of energy storage, increases in solar panel efficiencies, etc. Renewables are inextricably tied to energy sources which are incapable of meeting the needs of an electric grid.

  50. Slightly OT – the beeb are reporting a prototype in Manchester UK of a cryogenic system for storing energy from intermittent renewables, by cooling air to liquid; then re-gasifying it to drive a turbine:
    It looks interesting technically, although efficiency could be an issue.
    Any comments on cryogenic storage? Could this be a grid-scale storage solution? It’s been kicking around a while and hasn’t set the earth on fire so there must be some hidden drawbacks I guess.

  51. o/t Ouarzazate is a famous studio lot. A lot of films are made there. Gladiator, Jewel of the Nile, some of the Indian Jones movies and on an on. Cheap mob actors and such but the main attraction is that it will be clear and sunny almost everyday and that is important when making films.

  52. Why is this solar plant so expensive. India built a 648MW solar plant for$679 Million dollars. Maybe they could supply Europe with cheap solar.

  53. Wow. I sure wish I could get my power at 6 cents. I pay closer to 10 for the electric plus another 4 for distribution. 40 percent off the mark doesn’t begin to cover the errors in this article

  54. Morocco of course is the largest importer of fossil fuel in Africa, having little resource of its own.
    this and the other solar panel initiatives and the solar CSP plant mean it will be able to drastically reduce its foreign currency payments for fossil fuel in the future – plus home built solar CSP is a big new employer.

  55. “high voltage high ampacity DC undersea power cable” Am I missing something, I was under the impression that transmission over distances was only feasible after Tesla introduced AC systems, DC was rejected due to I squared R losses unless the cables were huge.

  56. Anyone who believes that the nameplate capacity of a solar system means that it will produce that amount of power does not have much familiarity with using solar systems. My 3.12 kw system is lucky to hit a peak production rate of 1.1 kw these days. It is better in late June, however peak power only occurs between 11:00 and 13:00. Solar power production follows a partial sine like curve during daylight hours. Whatever the “rated” capacity is for this plant, I would like to see how they derated the capacity to try to align with reality.
    I wonder what they calculate for the cost of cleaning.

  57. Solar farms make no financial sense.
    Localized or personal solar installations may make sense depending on costs, geography and weather. (I recently saw a solar installation on a house that was surrounded by tall trees, believe it or not.)
    However it close to impossible to assess the cost effectiveness of solar due to myriad owning/leasing/subsidy schemes between solar companies and local and federal governments. For example say a county forces local electrical providers to buy a homeowners excess solar at 3 times the wholesale rate. This may benefit the homeowner depending on their solar installation costs, but for the county it is strictly a losing fiscal investment.

  58. A CNN report states that by 2018 it could power 1 million homes – so much for the BBC claim that it could power Europe!
    It also reports that it will generate 160 megawatts in the first plant, and eventually 570 megawatts. One coal fired power station in Australia at Bayswater generates 2640 megawatts.

    • “A CNN report states that by 2018 it could power 1 million homes – so much for the BBC claim that it could power Europe!”
      From the BBC piece….
      “As well as meeting domestic needs, Morocco hopes one day to export solar energy to Europe. This is a plant that could help define Africa’s – and the world’s – energy future.”
      Notice the words – hole, one day, could and future?

  59. Willis,
    You need to include in the calculation the fact that the daily dusting of the solar panels with fine particles,(which will not be cleaned in Morocco), will cause a 50% loss of output from week 1.

    • Scientific American had a story back in July, 2013-
      With this tidbit-
      “And now that it is built, Shams 1 sends a series of trucks up and down the lines of 250,000 mirrors every day, using robot arms to spray that precious water and clean away the dust.”
      And for tower based CSP, this overlooked detail that increased the cost of the plant-
      “In order to reach the 100-megawatt-capacity goal of the Shams 1 plant, developers had to add substantially more mirrors to the plant than planned due to dust in the atmosphere. Scott Burger, an analyst at Greentech Media’s GTM Research who focuses on the region, said the plant probably ended up costing three times the initial estimate, thanks in part to dealing with that dust.”

  60. 5 square miles (3200sq acres) of total devastation that will be a useless oasis of junk in about 10 years… Im not sure how green call themselves green.

  61. All those zeroes can confuse me, but my Google thingy says that Europe generates 3 million GWh a year, which would mean that this plant would produce 0.012% of Europe’s juice. Need I say more?

  62. When I turned left at Quarzazate in the early 1970’s to return to Europe over the High Atlas, it was a Moroccan army outpost keeping the Polisario guerillas at bay. There was a lot of action after I left (no connection!) and the guerillas these days are supposed to be restrained by a 2700km long wall of sand.
    As the sand does blow about a bit on the northern edge of the Sahara, Noor will need a lot of washing and with the wet cooling design of Noor 1 estimated water consumption is in the 2.5-3 million cubic metres/yr range. The dam on the Draa river 12 km away stores about 100x that…when there is no drought. There is also a need for about 19 tons of diesel per day.

    • “it produces 370 gigawatt-hours per year”
      If it works. And it does not. The problem with wind and solar is not cost. Engineers can make them work as expected. With no respect for Griff of David Hagen, I applied a lot of physics and mechanical engineering skill making nukes work as designed. If we had not been able to do that, nuclear would not be an option today.
      Commercial nuclear power had failures. Wind and solar was promoted as an alternative. Today nuclear is mainstream and wind and solar is being promoted as an alternative.
      The physics of PV dooms it to failure for power production. CSP is also doomed to failure because of thermal cycles. Sure you can make CSP function poorly if you burn enough fossil fuel (ie 19 tons of diesel per day).

  63. Another assumption you missed, Willis: Solar PV power output declines about 1% a year. So it will take even longer than you calculated to pay it off. Of course we know that it will be abandoned and covered in sand much before that. Shame all those billions of dollars wasted…

  64. “That’s good news, because we need it to line Elon Musk’s pockets …” a cheap shot conveying an innacurate impression

    • John Hardy December 12, 2016 at 1:12 am Edit

      “That’s good news, because we need it to line Elon Musk’s pockets …” a cheap shot conveying an innacurate impression

      Cheap shot? No way. Given that Musk has already taken over four BILLION dollars from the taxpayer, it has definitely not been cheap … that’s far too damn much money for nothing more than coal-fired sparky cars. I ‘d call it wildly overpriced, not cheap.

  65. The Arabic Noor comes from the Aramaic Owre אור or Maowre מאור meaning ‘light’. Arabic being a daughter language of Aramaic-Hebrew.

  66. And anyone who thinks we can depend upon Morocco, Libya, and Algeria to supply Europe with energy, must be wearing uber rose-tinted glasses. First sign of political tension, internally or externally, and they will cut us off.
    A power plant in the Sahara would only work if Europe stationed 200,000 soldiers in the desert to protect them and their power lines. And we cannot do that, because that is ‘Imperialism’ (apparently). So the idea of power from the Sahara is a dead duck.

  67. Better to make an experiment like Quarzazte for trying out if something works and finding ways how to improve – than making the experiment of converting a whole republic into an experiment like here in Germany.
    But even as Germany and South Australia have volunteered to do this experiment state-wide, wise folks can see the outcome.
    In Germany it works, because they use their neighbors to buffer energy.
    In South Australia it doesn’t work, having no neighbors to buffer.
    Additionally, Germany needs coal power plants to have a backup, therefore CO2-Savings are nil.

  68. It is interesting. I just looked at the price of set of PV panels with inverter for my house in Poland (10 kW). It is 50 000 PLN (price includes cost of panels, cost of inverter, fitting, 8% VAT and is not subsidized). Multiplying it by 16 000 I am getting 800 000 000 PLN (it is 190 mln USD). But I think I would get a significant discount for buying and fitting 16 000 of such sets (not deducting 16 000 of unnecessary inverters). I think cost of a bit of Sahara is not huge.
    And I always thought Poland is quite expensive country…

  69. I’m building a house near the Columbia River in Washington State, USA, and have investigated various alternative energy ideas. My attitude is very simple: I will not pay a premium for smugness. I’d rather be more self-sufficient than less, but the numbers will rule.
    Geothermal heat pump would cost at least twice as much up front, and maybe a good deal more. They are said to be finicky, expensive to repair, and over time might be hard to find parts for in the rural area where we’ll be living. So we’ll probably be getting an air-source heat pump with a backup propane furnace for when the heat pump doesn’t work as well.
    Home-scale wind turbine would cost at least $30,000 after the tax credit. It would have a 3-year warranty. Maintenance is expensive, and the things have a poor reputation on the reliability front. And they are ugly as hell. Scratch that.
    Solar panels would cost $25,000 to $30,000 after the tax credit. The warranty is 25 years, and degradation is warranted at 0.85% per year. On my property, they’d be ground-mounted because I have the space, and angle unobstructed to the south. They would replace power that, at today’s rates, would cost $32,500 over 25 years. Maintenance is minimal. I have yet to confirm the numbers, but if they’re real, we’ll have solar panels. In WA State, the local utility is required to do “net metering,” i.e. you give them a kWh, they give you a kWh, meaning that their distribution network is free of charge to me, although I will have to pay a monthly connection fee.
    Battery storage, i.e. those Tesla “powerwall” batteries, or competitors. This would be a ludicrously expensive proposition, about 17 cents/kWh, compared to 9 cents/kWh for the power itself off the panels. And because of the timing differential between summer and winter, the capital investment in those batteries would be enormous — as high as $100,000 for a set that would truly take us off grid. That will not happen.

    • Numbers, you are not very smart are you? If you want to be self sufficient, grow vegetables. Leave making electricity to the experts.
      Washington State has a mild climate suitable for a heat pump.

      • Um, I have an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business, and am retired with a nice cushion. It’s obvious that you know nothing about Washington State’s climate. But thanks for playing.

  70. Guys, you missed a couple of points.
    1. These are not PVs, this is an array of mirrors concentrating solar energy to melt salt (CSP). USA has one of those in Mojave desert – so you know that it is even less efficient (per sq. meter) then PVs.
    2. The location is the one previously chosen by the DESERTEC consortium which folded in 2014 after spending $$$$$$$$$.
    3. It is all EU technology (German, I believe) – so if this is such a profitable idea, why isn’t EU financing this, say, in Spain or Sicily that have similar insolation?

  71. Did visit Ouarzazate a few years back. Never heard about this solar project. Mainly a friendly small desert town and because of the scenery around a lot of movie recordings there. Clearest memory is the kashbah Ait Ben Haddu close by and the drive by car through the mountains to get there from Marrakesh. Funny that big capital (Atlas movie studio and this power plant) is so active in this seemingly so remote a place.

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