80,000 refugees to benefit from $17 million solar plant with 40,000 panels

Khalil Mazraawi | AFP | Getty Images

A refugee camp in Jordan is now home to a 15 million-euro ($17.59 million) solar farm that will provide clean, free energy to 80,000 Syrian refugees and their host community.

The solar facility, located at the Zaatari camp in the north of the country, was inaugurated Monday, the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, said in a statement. The plant has been funded by the Federal Government of Germany via the KfW Development Bank.

The UNHCR said the new plant would enable it to boost the provision of electricity to refugees' homes from eight hours up to 14 hours, and save an average of around 5 million euros in electricity bills per year. In addition, CO2 emissions are set to be reduced by more than 13,000 tons per year.

In terms of on-the-ground impacts, the UNHCR said that the new conditions would improve the safety and security of families, facilitate the storage of food, and give children more time to do homework.

"Innovative projects such as this one are key to responding to the needs of a population facing long-term displacement," Stefano Severe, the UNHCR's representative to Jordan, said in a statement. "The opening of this solar plant represents a milestone for Zaatari camp residents as it will have a positive impact on their daily lives," Severe added.

Over 75 refugees had been working "side-by-side with Jordanians" to build the plant, installing more than 40,000 solar panels, the UNHCR said.

The Zaatari camp was opened in 2012 in order to respond to what the UNHCR described as a "mass exodus of refugees" moving across the Syrian-Jordanian border. At its peak, the camp hosted more than 120,000 refugees.

The United Nations says that an estimated 5 million Syrians have fled the country and 6 million have been internally displaced as a result of the Syrian conflict and crisis, which dates back to 2011.