Fifteen megawatts of solar energy might not sound like much to us. Here in the U.S. we’ve got several plants with hundreds of megawatts in capacity. But for a country like the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, it’s life changing. Today, Masdar, an Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company, announced official plans to develop a 15-megawatt solar power project in Nouakchott, the country’s capital city.
Mauritania is a West African country with a population of around 3.5 million people, yet a current installed grid capacity of just 144 megawatts. The Masdar array will be the first utility-scale solar power installation in the entire country, and is expected to represent an impressive 10 percent of the nation’s electricity capacity upon completion.
The decision to build a photovoltaic power plant in Mauritania wasn’t made lightly. Right now, most of the country’s electricity is supplied by diesel generators. It just so happens, however, that this inconspicuous country has some of the highest levels of solar radiation in the world, making it an ideal place for solar power installations. By launching a new solar energy harvesting installation in Mauritania, both its government and Masdar have a chance to demonstrate developing nations’ ability to leap-frog the devastating fossil fuel dependence that now plagues the United States and other Western nations.
“With the demand for energy rapidly increasing – especially in the developing world – tapping into renewable energy is critical,” said Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, chief executive officer of Masdar. “The integration of wind, solar and hydro power helps to reduce the strain on our natural resources and serves as a bridge to energy security and economic development opportunities. Investing in renewable energy preserve natural resources, contributes to energy security and water security, and fosters sustainable development.”