Wind in Morocco's sails as green energy revolution takes off

(CNN)Expanding solar power in Morocco was always a no-brainer. The sun-drenched North African nation is a perfect match for the photovoltaic panel. But it's hardly the only way of squeezing green energy out of the country.

For 80% of the year the wind blows at 17-20 miles per hour in Morocco. It's a boon for the wind energy sector, with big name players including Siemens and LafargeHolcim attracted to the nation's pledge to produce 50% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
German engineering giant Siemens has invested $109 million into the Moroccan energy market, building a manufacturing plant for the giant 207-feet-long wind turbine blades.
    Inside Morocco's wind energy production
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    Inside Morocco's wind energy production 02:44
    "[It's] the first blade factory in the Middle East and Africa," says Lasse Eisgrubber, project manager at the Siemens work site in Tangier. "We're between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. So we are actually planning to export a lot of our volume, and we can reach a lot of countries here."
    Eisgrubber praises the quality of the workforce, and plant manager and CEO of Siemens Wind Power Morocco Ralph Sperrazza says the production site will require 650 employees when fully-operational -- some training in Denmark.
    "The talent pool is great," Sperrazza concurs. "We've been able to fill the whole leadership team with Moroccan people that have great experience."
    It's an attractive investment opportunity which stands on its own two feet.
    "We don't need any subsidy to make wind energy happen in Morocco," Jan Pieter Wildiers, head of Siemens Wind Power Morocco explains, "it's the most competitive way of providing electricity."

    Revolutionary thinking

    When completed the manufacturing site could one day supply the like of the Tetouan cement plant, southeast of Tangier.
    Run by Swiss firm LafargeHolcim, they claim it's the first of its kind in the world to be powered by wind energy. Financed by the company's $50 million investment in Moroccan clean energy, 23 turbines produce 32 megawatts -- approximately 70% of the cement factory's needs.
    Those figures are small fry when compared to the Tangier wind farm, the second largest in Africa, which has nearly four times the capacity.
    "[The] park produces 526.5 gigawatt hours annually," says director Mohammed Arroijal. "For example, one turbine can supply the needs of 800 homes."
    The 165 wind turbines at the Tangier wind farm is overseen by state-owned provider O.N.E.E, and one of four large-scale wind farms contributing towards wind power's 35% share of Morocco's renewable market.
    "The fact that the kingdom's policy is to have [...] 50% of its energy mix coming from sustainable energy [...] is pushing each and every actor to innovate more in its sustainability," argues Marcel Cobuz, CEO of LafargeHolcim Marocco.
    "Investing in these windmills has allowed us to save 60-65,000 tons of CO2 per year. That's the equivalent of planting 300,000 tress.
    "When you have this matching between huge needs and huge responsibilities -- and exploiting these opportunities -- then you have the perfect match."