UK to build solar and wind complex in southern Morocco

This project reaffirms the cooperation between Rabat and London
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REUTERS/LUDOVIC MARIN  -   Boris Johnson speaks with King Mohamed VI of Morocco during the 5th African Union-European Union (AU-EU) summit in Côte d'Ivoire, 29 November 2017.

The British company Xlinks has announced the construction of a solar and wind power facility in the Moroccan region of Guelmim Oued Noun, in the south of the country. This plan is part of the close partnership between Morocco and the UK, a cooperation that has already explored other sectors such as commerce.

The complex will cover an area of 1,500 square kilometres and will be connected to the British territory via a 3,800-kilometre HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) submarine cable. According to the Moroccan media Telquel, it could be the longest submarine cable in the world. The cost of the investment will be approximately 22 billion dollars.

"This is enough to deliver low-cost, clean energy to more than 7 million UK homes by 2030. When completed, the project will be able to supply 8% of Britain's electricity needs," says Simon Morrish, CEO of Xlinks.

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AFP/FADEL SENNA - An aerial view of the solar mirrors of the Noor 1 concentrated solar power plant near the city of Ouarzazate.

The power plant to be built in the Moroccan region will generate 10.5 GW of carbon-free electricity from the sun and wind, as reported by the company. In addition to solar panels and wind turbines, a 20 GWh battery will be installed.

"Where renewable energy in the UK is dwindling due to low winds and short periods of sunshine, the project will reap the benefits of the long hours of sunshine in Morocco," Xlinks explained. 

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Noor II solar thermal power plant in Ouarzazate

The company has pointed to Morocco's favourable climate as a key factor in choosing where to develop the project. "The shortest winter day still offers more than 10 hours of sunlight," it said.

He also highlighted Morocco's experience in the sector. "Morocco has become an international leader in renewable energy in the last 10 years. The country has been a forerunner in the development of large and innovative renewable energy projects around the world," he said.

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PHOTO/AP - Aerial view of the Noor 3 solar power plant in Morocco

"This project will build on Morocco's strong renewable energy expertise while supporting its global leadership role in the fight against climate change, adding value to its natural resources and strengthening its renewable energy industry", he adds.

The British company will build at least two factories in the country to manufacture the cables that will carry the power from Morocco to the UK, which Morrish believes "will be quicker than waiting for an existing company to manufacture them". The first cable should be installed in 2025 and activated in early 2027.

Rabat-London cooperation intensifies

Relations between Morocco and the United Kingdom are at their best. During the Brexit process, London began to strengthen trade ties with other countries. Morocco then became a major ally of the country. On 26 October 2019, the two kingdoms signed an agreement in which they pledged to maintain and develop a close trade partnership. A year earlier, Rabat and London agreed to secure their trade relations following the UK's official exit from the European Union.

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Prince Henry of the United Kingdom meets with Saad Eddine El Othmani, former Prime Minister of Morocco, during the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London, Britain, 20 January 2020.

The union in this area has strengthened over time. In early 2021, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed building a tunnel between Gibraltar and Tangiers to facilitate transport between the Alawite kingdom and the British colony.

Although this project has not yet been developed, the UK and Morocco have recently launched a maritime route between Tangier and Poole. This journey will be "faster and cheaper", according to the British ambassador in Rabat, Simon Martin. Although the route is initially intended exclusively for goods, Martin does not rule out the possibility of transporting tourists in the future

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PHOTO/REUTERS - General view of the Tangier-Med container port at Ksar Sghir, near the coastal city of Tangier, Morocco.

The Moroccan-British relationship will be extended to other areas, such as the military. Last August, Martin announced to Le360 that Morocco and the UK will hold joint military exercises in October.

In addition to trade and military ties, the UK could also support Morocco politically in the Sahara region. "The British will sooner or later recognise the integrity of Moroccan territory," said Ahmed Faozi, an international relations expert.