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Mecca planning to go solar

Mecca, Islam’s holiest site, is aiming to become the first city in Saudi Arabia to run on solar power.

Mecca’s Mayor Osama al-Bar is seeking bids from developers to construct and run power plants that will generate 385 gigawatt-hours of power annually, including 100 megawatts of solar capacity, Bloomberg reported.

By January 5 next year, the winning bid will be announced. Work is expected to start the following June and be complete by 2018.

According to Bloomberg, the central government is eyeing $109 billion in investment to establish the solar industry across the nation.

Meanwhile, under the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy program, Saudi Arabia aims to put in 41 gigawatts of solar capacity over the next 20 years. According to estimates, 25 gigawatts will be from solar thermal while 16 GW will come from photovoltaics.

“Mecca’s program complements that work and may provide a guide for other Middle Eastern cities on how to adopt the technology,” said International Renewable Energy Agency director general Adnan Amin in a statement.

The holy city is located 70 kilometers inland south of Jeddah. It is a home to two million people, while over 15 million Muslims visit the site for pilgrimage every year. The desert kingdom’s economy is heavily based on petroleum, which accounts for about 75 percent of the government’s revenues and 90 percent of export earnings from the oil industry.

According to the International Energy Agency, Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest proven conventional oil reserves and production capacity that exceeds 10 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia is the third biggest carbon emitter per capita in the world according to a study co-authored by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Agency and the European Union’s Joint Research Center. – EcoSeed Staff

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