By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Dead Sea Panorama Complex will operate fully on solar power by the end of the year to conserve energy and reduce its carbon footprint, officials said on Monday.

Construction work on a $2 million project to switch the complex from running on electricity to solar energy is currently under implementation and is expected to be completed in October, according to officials.

“Implementation started in March this year… It is expected to generate 100 kilowatts per hour of solar energy,” Alaa Mjahed, director of the Dead Sea Panorama Complex, said yesterday.

The project is funded by the Japanese government under an initiative which seeks to help Jordan address the impact of climate change on its limited natural resources and improve energy conservation.

In March last year, the Japanese government extended $20 million in grants for this purpose; $7 million were allocated for the installation of photovoltaic electricity generating systems at the Dead Sea Panorama Complex and El Hassan Science City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Mjahed highlighted the importance of operating the site on clean energy, noting that the complex serves as an awareness centre on various environment issues, particularly the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea.

Operated by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, the Dead Sea Panorama Complex is located in the Maeen hills and houses a museum, tourist facilities, exhibition halls, seminar and meeting rooms and a restaurant.

“The complex is a tourist and educational centre that briefs local and foreign tourists about the history of the Dead Sea and its current situation. It also seeks to raise the awareness of the local community on environment-related issues,” Mjahed underscored.

The Dead Sea has been shrinking at the rate of one metre per year, largely due to the diversion of water from the Jordan River for agricultural and industrial use.

Over the past two decades alone, it has plunged more than 30 metres, with experts warning that it could dry up within the next 50 years.

The number of tourists visiting the museum increased from 23,600 in 2008 and 37,400 in 2009 to 41,000 in 2010, according to Mjahed.

“Fifty per cent of the visitors are foreigners, 45 per cent are Jordanians and the remaining are tourists from Arab countries,” he noted.