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Noor solar power plant in Ouarzazate: a sensational theme park being built in secret

The four Noor solar power plants in Ouarzazate constitute a site of considerable importance, which was the largest in the world when its construction began, and which is part of the colossal Moroccan effort in terms of solar energy, launched as early as 2009 during a ceremony presided over by king Mohammed VI. These plants produce 580 MW and thus provide green electricity to nearly two million Moroccans. In 2017, the Moroccan agency for sustainable energy, Masen (Moroccan Agency for Sustainable Energy), built a reception and conference building. Even more: a sensational theme park (our image) is under construction, on the sly, to make it "an essential tourist destination". The scenography is the work of the workshops Adeline Rispal of Paris, already in charge of the museography of the new Musée de la reconstruction of Agadir.

The Rispal workshops explain the route envisaged in this video put online at the end of 2020. This will offer a "global scenography experience", to accompany the visitor in "a physical, sensitive discovery , aesthetic and intellectual" of the Solar City.

The route will start east of the solar power plants (arrow to the right of our image). Straight towards the west, the visitor will be welcomed at the Masen Center, also called "Lighthouse building". Inaugurated in 2017, this construction bears the HQE label (High Environmental Quality), the first in Africa. The interested tourist will visit two exhibitions there. The first will introduce him to Masen, Moroccan Agency for sustainable energy, and will offer him the keys to understanding the site.

A second exhibition, scientific, will reveal how the transformation of solar radiation into electricity (our image) works. Some aspects of the project are still subject to change. This is why the Rispal workshops use the conditional to specify that a Sun Museum could be set up. It would enlighten the visitor on the history of the star through civilizations.

What is certain, however, is that the visitor will be able to gain height and enjoy a panoramic view of the solar complex from the top of the Masen Tower, which is 45 meters tall (our picture).

A vehicle will then take him to the aisles of giant mirrors, which follow the course of the sun in an imperceptible movement. At dawn, the visitor will witness the grandiose spectacle of the sensors reversing from west to east (left arrow on our map above).

Next step, on the way to Masen Sun Park ! This educational theme park is drawn by reproducing the borders of the Kingdom (our Google Maps map of 2023 with the borders of the country indicated in red by us, drawn exactly on the walls that have been laid out there) .

The Masen Sun Park project is not built on sand. According to the Skyscrapercity site, it was presented in 2009 already to king Mohammed VI. And the images taken by satellite since then show the evolution of the constructions.

The Rispal workshops announce that "scientific, anthropological and cultural devices" will be implemented according to the geography of the Kingdom. At each intersection of meridians and parallels (our image), "poetic and playful observation devices could be installed". These formulations leave room for various interpretations and possibilities of concretizations.

Three other aspects are already proving more concrete. In a nursery and an ethnobotanical garden (our Google Maps image), the visitor will discover the medicinal, aromatic and cosmetic virtues of plants. In the spirals, he will be able to listen to the song of the sun and that of the stars. An oasis (our first photo, at the very top of this message) will reveal the specificities of its natural and cultural ecosystem.

Probably as an option, the visitor will be able to end his visit in a hot air balloon to gain height again. At nightfall, flying over the Sun Park map of Morocco, he will discover that it is dynamic (our photo).

As we can see, the Rispal workshops project perfectly meets the expectations that we had allowed ourselves to present right here, in february 2016. The information disseminated so far in dribs and drabs by the Rispal workshops makes it possible to imagine a route with several variants, depending on the time available to the visitor and... his wallet.

It remains to be seen on what date the announced theme park will open, it being understood that the detailed work of the scenography is complex to carry out if we intend to ensure the necessary impact and quality. Appointed king Mohammed VI in December 2009 to head the Masen agency, Mustapha Bakkoury launched construction work on the four Noor power plants in Ouarzazate, the last time in April 2017 (our photo, alongside the king).

Four years later, Bakkoury, who was also president of the Casablanca-Settat Region, fell from grace. The sovereign reproached him for poor management, particularly with regard to deadlines. The Midelt solar power plant, for example, is behind schedule. As the newspaper "Le Monde" analyses, not only are delays piling up, but losses are also mounting.

Masen sells its electricity to the distributor ONE at a rate lower than its production cost. Another aspect is the choice of technology used. The first two solar power stations in Ouarzazate are made up of curved mirrors (our image), which reflect the sun's rays, enabling them to store heat during the day and supply energy in the evening, when consumption peaks. But in ten years, the price of the other technology, photovoltaic panels, has fallen by 80%, making curved mirrors economically obsolete, a cutting-edge technology that has been overtaken by market realities.

Morocco intends to increase the share of renewable energies in the national electricity mix to more than 52% by 2030, also via wind power of which Masen is also in charge. The ambition is huge and requires extremely efficient management. Exit therefore Mustapha Bakkoury, under the influence of a judicial inquiry. The new boss is called Tarik Hamane. Masen's number 2 until mid-2022, he then joined Total Eren to be in charge of developing green hydrogen within the giant TotalEnergie. Here he is back. There doesn't seem to be any reason why the beautiful theme park project (our image) should be changed.


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