In Morocco, the winds of change are blowing in the right direction.
“It’s an incredible feeling knowing that the machines behind me are powered by clean and renewable energy,” Hicham Ghatous said.
A director at one of Morocco’s leading cement manufacturers, Ghatous has reason to be upbeat. His employer, CIMAT, runs entirely on wind-generated power. The firm is a clean outlier in an otherwise dirty industry. In 2015, the cement sector was responsible for 2.8 billion tons of CO2, or 8% of global emissions. In other words, if cement factories were a country, they would pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than all but two countries.
CIMAT buys electricity from the Khalladi Wind Farm, a project owned and operated by ACWA Power. The company is a private sector partner of the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and the government of Morocco. CIF has invested over $600 million in support of Morocco’s ambitious renewable energy targets, including a goal of 2,000 MW in wind capacity by 2020.
The Khalladi complex has 40 wind turbines generating a total of 120 MW in clean energy. The CO2 emissions the facility saves are equivalent to taking nearly 40,000 cars off the road every year.
Ghatous’ work is energy-intensive. “[The cement industry] relies on the use of rotor dynamic machines, from grinding and crushing and kilns,” Ghatous explained. “The factories themselves also use a lot of energy.”
In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, wind power has been great for CIMAT’s bottom line. “Overall, we have noticed a significant improvement in our energy bill,” Ghatous noted. “We are using [the savings] to invest in the next phase of our sustainable development program.” CIMAT has invested in technologies that limit dust pollution, improve water treatment and recovery, and make energy use more efficient.
Nationwide, renewable energy is opening up job opportunities for Moroccans. “It’s a win-win situation,” said Mouhsine Alaoui, CEO of ACWA Power in Morocco. “It means that production costs go down. When I say production cost, I don’t necessarily refer to banks. I refer to the country’s other economic activities. If the production cost decreases, then exportation opportunities will increase, and this will lead to a surge in job demand. So, there is an undeniable correlation.”
Morocco makes an excellent candidate for wind power development. “Firstly, Morocco has great potential when it comes to prime land available for wind farms, the Minister of Energy has estimated the potential output to be 25 gigawatts. Morocco has also put in place a series of laws allowing companies to sell our energy directly, through the law 13.09. So, I think that with these two factors, Moroccan regulation and the specifics of the area, make Morocco an interesting country in terms of wind energy, and it is for this reason that we invested in the wind farm,” Alaoui explained.
As a technology, wind power, too, has made advancements over the years. Wind turbines are taller, and rotors have grown larger. Last year, wind capacity exceeded 500 GW, comprising nearly 4% of all electricity generation worldwide. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global onshore wind power is expected to jump nearly 65% by 2023. Offshore wind mills, a promising if relatively new technology, grew 23% last year, and are on track to expand even further.
“I think there will be a knock-on effect,” said Alaoui, analyzing the potential of wind power in Morocco. “ACWA Power’s development department is investing significantly to scout new locations to increase the number of wind farms.”
Generation of clean energy for local businesses to use
Reduction of CO2 emissions
Increased employment in the green technology sectors during construction and maintenance
Cement produced using more environmentally friendly energy
Increases Morocco's renewable energy profile to 42% of all energy
Social programs incorporated into the design and structure of the project
Cooperatives created to support handicraft work
Mobile dental vans procured to improve dental health of children
MW of clean wind energy
GWh sold to local firms
tons of CO2 emissions reduced per year
targeted MW capacity for wind production by 2020
m/s wind speed average in Tangiers
tons of steel per foundation
million m3 soil cleared
km of underground kV transmission lines
blades for windmills
tons per blade
meters of blade length
meters tall per tower