Morocco steps up CSP activity with R&D funds

Six innovative solar thermal and CSP R&D projects have been awarded US$2.3 million by IRESEN, and a new call for 2015’s funding round is expected to be made in September this year. CSP Today’s Alison Ebbage finds out more.

IRESEN is playing an integral role in advancing CSP research and development in Morocco. The government agency has funded six R&D solar thermal and CSP projects with US$2.3 million and shortlisted 11 projects for the second stage. It also tendered a 1

By Alison Ebbage

The Moroccan solar industry is set to power on. The government has chosen six research and development (R&D) projects involving novel solar thermal and CSP technologies to receive US$2.3 million from the Moroccan Institute for Research on Solar Energy and New Energy (IRESEN).

The projects received their funding in May during a formal signing ceremony. At the same time, a further 11 were announced to have gone on to the second stage of the programme for examination, with a view to finalising their funding in September.

“These initial proposals were to support research and development in renewables, with a focus on PV and CSP,” Nadia Zeddou, who leads the submissions process at IRESEN, told CSP Today.

“The six projects that have been awarded funding were chosen last year based on the degree to which they would be able to innovate and add value to the renewables industry.”

Three years to commercialization

These initiatives include a project that aims to increase CSP supply to the national grid via micro CSP production.

The first part of the project involves modifying existing micro CSP capability, both with and without storage, to better define how its contribution to the national grid can be more reliable and fulfil maximum potential.

With a budget of 330,000 euros, the project will run over three years and will use a prototype micro CSP station with a 10kW capability.

Another successful bid for funding came from a project seeking to develop a flash-drying process using solar energy for the phosphate sector.

With a budget of 319,000 euros, the project will work on two themes: evaluating the performance characteristics of the technology itself and then flash drying and its integration into a solar source.

Zeddou explains that the maximum timeline for proposed research projects is three years.

“We expect that the results of all our projects will eventually be successfully commercialised and capable of going out to market. In fact, that was one of our main requirements- that any prototype would be capable of being scaled up to an industrial level and then successfully commercialised,” she says.

All six successful projects had to attract additional funding as well as partner with at least one national industrial partner and one national university. Following that, partnerships and input from the industry on a global scale could be sought.

“There is a real push to have local knowledge and expertise on board to support the industry’s national development and support the local economy too,” says Zeddou.

Next round of funding

The 11 subsequent projects announced in May now need to satisfy IRESEN with regards their funding, their purpose and the finer technical details before final awards can be decided.

The projects are a mixture of solar, PV, wind and biomass and will be financed from the 2014 budget for proposals, which amounts to around 3.3 million euros.

Of the 11 projects, six are CSP related. These include a hybrid bath proposal, which has requested a budget of 379,788 euros; a solar dryer with an expected budget of 98,474 euros; and system for producing drinking water, which has asked for 149, 576 euros.

Finally, two other CSP projects that will work in tandem with biogas have asked for a combined budget of 398, 593 euros.

A new call for proposals for 2015’s funding is expected to be made in September.

“There is a relatively compact group of research and development teams in the country and we expect that the same teams will reapply,” explains Zeddou.

“However, our rules state that the same team cannot receive funding for a second or subsequent project until a year after the first has been successfully completed. In this way, we hope to encourage newcomers as well as support those who are already successful”.

Advancing CSP R&D

IRESEN was founded in 2011 by the Moroccan Ministry of Energy, Mines, Water and Environment to take renewable energy R&D to a nationwide level.

Last month, the institute tendered a 1 MWe CSP-Organic Rankine Cycle pilot plant with a small buffer capacity to be located at its Green Energy Park in Benguerir, a city in central Morocco.

The project will focus on a decentralized solution with a short execution period and a system that is compact and modular, achieving economies of production and meeting customer needs with less than 10 MW combined heat and power requirement.

“The prevailing wisdom is that in order to be economic and successful, CSP projects had to be larger creating economies of scale,” IRESEN states on its website. “The proposed project investigates the opposite philosophy.”

IRESEN has been playing an integral role in advancing CSP R&D in Morocco. Besides developing solar irradiation and wind mapping models, the institute together with OCP Group launched the country’s first renewable energy platform Green Energy Park, for PV & CSP indoor equipment, outdoor testing fields and pilot projects.

In the long run, such R&D initiatives will ultimately benefit Morocco’s energy strategy, which aims to develop 2,000 MW of solar energy capacity by 2020.

To comment on this article, please write to the author, Alison Ebbage.