Morocco's King Mohammed VI inaugurated the first phase of what will eventually be the world's biggest concentrated solar energy plant Thursday. The project is intended to slash greenhouse gas emissions.
The massive plant is located outside the central city of Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara desert.
"We can see that it is possible to get energy independence with solar systems and it is a fantastic message for all the African continent and all around the world," French Environment Minister Segolene Royal said at Thursday's dedication.
A concentrated solar plant collects thermal energy from the sun's rays in metal mirrors and stores the energy to use at night or during cloud cover.
The Moroccan plant, called Noor 1, uses 500,000 mirrors spread out over an area as large as 600 football (soccer) fields.
A Saudi-led consortium built the plant with funds from various agencies, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank.
A project statement says "the solar plant underlines the country's determination to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, use more renewable energy, and move towards low carbon development."
Morocco lacks many of the natural resources needed to produce energy and must import nearly all its fossil fuels from the Middle East and North Africa.
It plans to open the next two phases of the plant later this year.