World's largest mosque in Makkah could lead green charge under solar power plan

Greenpeace report says that installing solar panels at places of worship such as Masjid Al Haram could help protect planet

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Installing solar panels at 10 major mosques in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe would save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, a Greenpeace report has said.

The environmental group says that improving the environmental performance of mosques could also have the wider benefit of highlighting the importance of green issues to communities.

Among the mosques subject to a detailed technical analysis are Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, the world’s largest mosque, and Al Nabawi Mosque in Madinah.

Glasgow Central Mosque, in the Scottish city where the Cop26 climate change conference is being hosted, is currently installing solar panels funded by Islamic Relief.

The report, The Green Mosques Initiative, was published by Greenpeace and Ummah for Earth, an alliance of environmental groups and experts that aims to support Muslim communities.

Writing in the report, Ghiwa Nakat, executive director of Greenpeace Middle East and North Africa, said it was important that the value of “community-led solutions” was highlighted.

“This report shows the potential that the Ummah [the Muslim community] has to be part of the solution, not only through the direct environmental benefits of ‘greening’ these mosques, but also because of their potential to influence people as centres of culture, spirituality and community life,” she said.

“They are an expression of the willingness of Muslims and religious leaders to be part of the climate solution.”

Solar solution could slash emissions and save money

Estimated cost savings from installing photovoltaic (PV) panels at the mosques would be $375,420 a year at Al Nabawi Mosque, the largest single figure, and $373,200 at Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria.

The smallest saving would be at Nizamiye Mosque in Johannesburg, South Africa, where PV panels would save $9,493 a year.

Carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by 12,025 tonnes a year if PV panels were installed at the 10 mosques, with the biggest saving at Al Nabawi Mosque, where savings would amount to 3,199 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

The smallest figure would be at the Glasgow Central Mosque, where 43.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide would be saved annually, which is many times the carbon footprint of a person in the UK.

PV panels would account for between 23 per cent and 100 per cent of the energy demand at each mosque, researchers say.

Techniques including 3D modelling were used to determine the energy savings, while researchers also worked out the optimal tilt for the PV panels at each mosque.

Researchers at the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese Foundation for Renewable Energy and the National Council for Scientific Research in Lebanon produced the report’s figures.

As well as being installed on the roofs of the mosques, researchers worked out plans for placing them in the yards adjacent to the buildings, where possible.

Calculated installation costs could be as much as $3.1m at Al Nabawi Mosque, the most expensive figure, but this would be paid back within eight years.

In some cases the installation cost is paid back much more quickly, such as 5.2 years at Glasgow Central Mosque.

'We must take the initiative'

“While we continue to demand policy that delivers climate justice, we must take the initiative and enact solutions we are capable of implementing ourselves, just like what is being done at Glasgow Central Mosque this week,” said Nouhad Awwad, project campaigner for Ummah for Earth at Greenpeace Mena.

Solar panels were installed last year at another of the study’s mosques, Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, which now runs partly on the electricity these generate.

The other mosques in the report are Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo, Al Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Grand Jamia Mosque in Lahore and the Great Mosque of Algiers.

Updated: November 14, 2021, 11:17 AM