Jeddah: Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad (PBUH), and Islam’s holiest city, has planned to become the first city in Saudi Arabia to run completely on solar power.
Osama al-Bar, the Mayor of Mecca, is inviting bids to build a large renewable energy plant, with a key component dedicated to solar energy, a first step towards achieving its stated ambition of becoming a solar powerhouse. The winner will be announced on January 5, 2013.
With a fast-growing population’s demand for electricity threatening its status as the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi is seeking to meet the country’s energy needs with alternative fuels, particularly solar energy, to allow it to export more oil and gas.
Currently, domestic consumers use some 25 per cent of Saudi’s crude output, with oil accounting for roughly 50 per cent of the country’s electricity production.
The Saudi Arabian government has said that it will invest $109 billion to establish a strong solar industry across the nation. The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy program is the jewel in this crown, and aims to develop 41 gigawatts of solar capacity over the next 20 years. 25 gigawatts will be installed in the form of solar thermal plants, and the remaining 16 gigawatts will be supplied by photovoltaic panels.
Adnan Amin, the director general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, said that “Mecca’s program complements that work and may provide a guide for other Middle Eastern cities on how to adopt the technology.”
The city will need 385 gigawatt-hours of power each year and the whole project should be finished by 2018.