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Morocco powers on largest solar site in the world, Luxembourg prepares for space mining, Japan begins development in South China Sea


Morocco switched on what will eventually be the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant on Thursday. The new site, near the city of Ouarzazate, will be able to produce enough clean energy to power over one million homes by 2018 and reduce total carbon emissions by 760,000 tons per year.

His Majesty Mohammed VI of Morocco led the event by turning on the power. According to a spokesperson from Morocco’s renewable energy agency, upon start-up, the parabolic mirrors began turning, the heat then began to turn the turbines and the plant came to life.

The new Noor solar complex uses concentrated solar power, a system that is more costly than the commonly used photovoltaic panels, but allows energy to be harnessed for nights and cloudy days. The site’s mirrors focus the sun’s rays and heat up a liquid that reaches around 400 degrees Celsius when mixed with water. The steam produced from this reaction powers a turbine that generates electrical power.

Morocco will soon lay the foundations for Noor 2, the next stage of the solar complex. The North African country aims to generate 42 percent of its total energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020, with one-third of that figure coming from solar, wind and hydropower each.

“With this bold step toward a clean energy future, Morocco is pioneering a greener development and developing a cutting edge solar technology,” said the World Bank Country Director for the Maghreb.



The Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy announced on Wednesday the first European initiative to develop a legal and regulatory framework on the future ownership of minerals extracted from objects in space.

“Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space, without damaging natural habitats. We will support the long-term economic development of new, innovative activities in the space and satellite industries as a key high-tech sector for Luxembourg,” said the country’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy.

Luxembourg has a prominent position in space activity, and many have speculated that its latest move is to keep up with the United States. The U.S. passed the SPACE Act of 2015 last November, a piece of legislation that encourages private companies to explore space and harvest its resources.

Many wondered whether Luxembourg’s latest action goes against the United Nations’ 1967 Outer Space Treaty or not, but Luxembourg’s Economic Minister Etienne Schneider assured inquirers that it does not.

Schneider notes that UN rules prohibit the appropriation of space and celestial bodies, but not the appropriation of materials found in space. Schneider analogized space to international waters, where fisherman own the fish they catch, but do not own bodies of water.

Approximately 13,500 near-Earth asteroids have been discovered to date, and identifying which asteroids to mine will remain a challenge for future prospectors. The main asteroids of interest will undoubtedly be those that contain platinum-group metals that are rare at the Earth’s surface, including platinum, iridium and palladium. Water and iron, if discovered elsewhere, could also support further in-space activity.



Japan announced last Wednesday that it will spend 75 million euros to rebuild an observation post on the uninhabited island of Okinotorishima in the Philippine Sea, a move that many predict will heighten maritime tensions between Japan and China.

The island, which lies 1,000 km south of Tokyo, will serve as an economic and defense strategic point as China continues to expand into the East and South China Seas. Okinotorishima island contains rich fishing grounds, as well as potentially significant deposits of oil and rare metals.

Japan has capitalized on China’s seeming disinterest of the island while it has pursued other regional islands, including most notably the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. China has long insisted that Okinotorishima is comprised of uninhabitable rocks that are unable to sustain human life, and therefore cannot be used by Japan to establish an exclusive economic zone, which extends for 200 nautical miles around the entire island.

The United Nations defines an island as a “naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is above water at high tide,” and continues that “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone.”