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Moroccan solar-plus-wind to be linked to GB in 'ground-breaking' Xlinks project

Xlinks' Simon Morrish, Paddy Padmanathan and Sir Dave Lewis. Image: Xlinks.

Xlinks' Simon Morrish, Paddy Padmanathan and Sir Dave Lewis. Image: Xlinks.

New solar and wind under development in Morocco is to be linked with Britain, with developer Xlinks also seeking to develop a cable manufacturing industry.

The Morocco-UK Power Project – unveiled today (26 September) – is to have a total capacity of 10.5GW, with a capability of exporting 3.6GW for an average of 20+ hours a day. The site is also to feature a 5GW/20GWh battery facility to help create a near-constant source of flexible and predictable renewable energy.

The electricity generated from the site – which is to be located in Morocco’s Guelmim Oued Noun region – is to be exported to Britain via four 3,800km High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) sub-sea cables.

These are to be laid in waters skirting the coasts of Portugal, Spain and France before linking to Britain's electricity network via two 1.8GW connections at Alverdiscott in Devon.

Xlinks said that utilising the Contracts for Difference scheme (CfD) would make the project a source of revenue rather than cost, delivering energy at £48/MWh CfD, below BEIS' central forecast for energy prices.

In 2019's CfD auction, offshore wind reached a record-breaking low of £39.65/MWh, with 6GW of new offshore wind capacity securing contracts at varying prices. The next round is to open in December, with solar and onshore wind also eligible to compete.

The Morocco-UK Power Project is currently making progress in gaining the requisite regulatory and government approvals in Morocco.

Xlinks is also lauding the impact the project is set to have on UK green jobs, with plans to create an export-led cable manufacturing industry in Britain via dedicated cable supply system company XLCC. This is to provide around 1,350 new, permanent regional jobs by 2024, when production is set to start.

It will support the manufacturing of the HVDC interconnector needed for the project, although Xlinks added that international growth due to growing global demand for interconnectors will drive orders long-term to keep the HVDC production lines at capacity for at least the next 20 years.

Agreements for factories located in Hunterston and Port Talbot have already been signed, with planning permission applications underway. Discussions are also taking place for a third factory in the north east.

The need for new green jobs has been highlighted by the Green Jobs Taskforce, which issued a call to action in July to support the creation of two million skilled jobs by 2030.

Jobs are also to be created in Morocco, with the project set to drive the production of locally manufactured solar and wind components as well as local civil engineering works. Nearly 10,000 jobs will be created during construction, 2,000 of which will become permanent.

This is Xlinks' first project, with the company's top team including Simon Morrish, founder of Levitate Capital as CEO, Paddy Padmanathan, president and CEO of ACWA Power as vice chair and former Tesco CEO, Sir Dave Lewis as executive chair. In Morocco, Xlinks is chaired by Dayae Oudghiri.

"The project will harness extremely reliable solar and wind power in Morocco to deliver vital baseload power balancing and enabling our own offshore wind ambitions, while reinforcing Morocco's renewable energy industry," Lewis said.

Morocco is aiming for 52% of its installed capacity to be renewables by 2030, holding a 400MW solar PV tender last year.

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