The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate sits on a dusty, red-earth plateau where the Atlas Mountains begin to descend into the Sahara Desert. Its dramatic landscape has made it a popular setting for movies and TV shows, from Middle Eastern epics like “Lawrence of Arabia” and “The Mummy” to HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
But Ouarzazate’s location also makes it a perfect spot for a different kind of outsized production: Morocco hopes to get more than half of its energy from renewable sources in less than 15 years. This part of the country is one of the sunniest places on Earth, so it was a natural site for a sprawling complex of solar power plants named Noor, the Arabic word for "light."
From a sleek new observation tower, you can see rows of gleaming, 20-foot-long curved mirrors stretching out in every direction across the barren plateau — about 500,000 in all.
The curved mirrors concentrate the sunlight like lenses, focusing a huge amount of heat onto long rows of metal pipes filled with molten salts, heating the liquid up to more than 700 degrees. That heat is then used to boil water, make steam and spin turbines, just like a regular power plant.
[Photo by PnP! | Flickr]