The Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (Masen) has issued a request for qualification (RFQ) to developers to build a 500MW solar facility in central Ouarzazate.

The selected bidder will design, build, operate, maintain and finance either a single project or cluster of facilities. Interested parties have until 4 October to respond to the RFQ.

Masen expects to complete the 500MW scheme by 2015. It will use a combination of thermal solar and photovoltaic solar technology.

A minimum of 125MW must be thermal solar and should be online by 2014. The remaining power capacity will be photovoltaic and is to be launched before the end of 2012 so that the complete scheme is online by early 2015.

More than 180 companies responded to the request for expressions of interest (EoI) for the scheme which was launched in March.

The large number of EoI responses came as a result of relatively loose definitions of the project in documents released to prospective bidders including the size and nature of the project, says one source close to the scheme.

A request for proposals (RFP) is expected to be issued in the fourth quarter of the year.

The planned site is located in the Tamezghitene area of Morocco, approximately 10 kilometres northeast of the city of Ouarzazate. The project will cover an area of around 3,300 hectares.

The region receives around 7.22 kWh radiation per square metre a day and the Mansour Eddahbi dam is 4km away. This is significant as access to water is important for the running concentrated solar power facilities.

The site is also close to existing 225/60kV high voltage transmission lines. The scheme will comprise several individual facilities, which will be commissioned by early 2015.

The Ouarzazate project was originally led by Morocco’s Office National de l’ Electricite (ONE) as a government-sponsored project, but was then passed to the newly created Masen under the Moroccan law 57/09 and adopted in an independent power project (IPP) structure.

The project is expected to benefit from funds from the World Bank-administered Clean Technology Fund, which earmarked $750 million in December 2009 for the purpose of promoting concentrated solar power plants in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The project is part of Morocco’s ambitious plans to boost its share of renewable energy in the kingdom. The country intends to add 2,000MW wind, 2,000MW hydroelectric and 2,000MW solar to the grid by 2020, which would represent 42 per cent of the total power generation capacity.