Up to 20,000 Syrian refugees living in the Azraq refugee camp have been given access to free clean power thanks to the world’s first solar farm to be deployed at a UN refugee camp.
The UN’s refugee agency, the UNHCR, yesterday announced the 2MW is covering the power needs of 5,000 shelters, allowing refugees to power lights, phone chargers, fans, fridges or TVs.
The microgrid is now expected to be extended to all the 36,000 refugees living in the camp by early next year, while the solar farm will be extended to deliver 5MW of capacity. Any excess power will then be fed into Jordan’s national grid, providing a boost to its plans to build a “green economy” by 2020.
The €8.75m project has been funded by the IKEA Foundation through the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, which raised €30.8m UNHCR projects. For each LED light-bulb sold by IKEA during the campaign period, the IKEA Foundation donated €1 to UNHCR to bring renewable energy and education to refugees.
The first phase of the project is already expected to deliver carbon savings of 2,370 tons a year and cut running costs at the refugee camp by $1.5m a year.
Moreover, the UNHCR said the construction of the Azraq solar plant has provided an income opportunity to over 50 refugees who have been trained and employed to help build the solar farm in partnership with Jordanian solar company Mustakbal.
“Lighting up the camp is not only a symbolic achievement; it provides a safer environment for all camp residents, opens up livelihoods opportunities, and gives children the chance to study after dark,” said Kelly T. Clements, UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner, in a statement. “Above all, it allows all residents of the camps to lead more dignified lives. Once again the partnership between IKEA Foundation and UNHCR has shown how we can embrace new technologies, innovation and humanity while helping refugees.”
Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation, said the project provided a model that could be emulated around the world. “The world’s first solar farm in a refugee camp signals a paradigm shift in how the humanitarian sector supports displaced populations,” he said. “UNHCR Jordan will save millions of dollars, while reducing carbon emissions and improving living conditions for some of the world’s most vulnerable children and families.”