The Azraq refugee camp in Jordan has achieved a notable first as the first camp of its kind to operate entirely on solar power. The achievement has been welcomed as a significant milestone by the UNHCR, and it will be welcomed by the 36,000 Syrian families who are currently living in the desert camp.
The Solar Energy plant will provide electricity to around 20,000 of the camp's inhabitants. The 2MW solar installation received £7.4 million of funding and was installed by the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, which is owned, led and funded by IKEA, the furniture giant. It is anticipated that £1.15 million worth of savings will be achieved every year through the switch to renewable energy, which will give the United Nations more money to spend on shelter, sanitation and camp activities, including education.
The renewable energy will provide safer lights for the camp's residents, give children the chance to do their homework after dark, provide social opportunities and the opportunity for work. The project came about through significant cooperation between UNHCR, Mustakbal - the private solar energy firm - and the Jordanian government.
The project is also expected to be expanded next year to include all of the 36,000 refugees who are living in a barren desert in the northern part of Jordan. For the past two years, the refugees have been reliant on small solar lanterns, and they had no way to cool shelters in extreme desert conditions or to preserve food. The introduction of electricity has transformed daily life at the camp.
Refugees have spoken of the greater dignity that they can enjoy thanks to electricity access and the chance to continue a familiar lifestyle. Over fifty refugees were trained for employment during the plant's construction.