Algeria to build $100m solar factory as Desertec beckons
Algeria’s state-controlled electricity and gas company Sonelgaz says it is building a solar-module factory, as the Sahara-bound country looks for a foothold in the solar bonanza shaping up across the Middle East and North Africa region.
The factory will cover four hectares in the industrial area of Rouiba, on the outskirts of the capital city Algiers.
The $100m factory will have an initial annual capacity of 50 megawatts, and will be fully operational by 2012, according to the state media.
Initially the panels will be targeted at remote, off-grid, rural communities spread across Algeria’s desert-swept southern regions, according to Sonelgaz chief executive Noureddine Bouterfa.
The factory is the first step in turning Algeria into a “strong and competitive” player in the emerging fields of solar-thermal and photovoltaic (PV) energy, Bouterfa says.
It is also a high-profile way for Algeria to announce to neighbouring countries Morocco, Tunisia and Libya that it will be vying hard for the proposed €400bn investment called for by the Desertec Industrial Initiative.
In July 2009 a dozen German companies – including major renewables players such as E.ON, Siemens and RWE – launched their vision for Desertec. The project calls for a vast array of wind farms, PV parks and concentrating solar power projects to be built across North Africa capable of providing 15% of Europe’s electricity requirements.
In the months since the Desertec announcement, North African leaders have been scrambling to shore up their green credibility. Algeria recently announced a target of sourcing 5% of its electricity from renewables by 2015.
In early November Morocco, the only North African country with no oil resources, as well as the only to have a power cable linking it to Europe, announced it would spend $9bn installing 2 gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020 in a ceremony attended by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Morocco’s plan calls for the development of five solar sites to be funded through a mixture of private and state capital, and would cover one fifth of the country’s electricity needs.