Turning Kara Tepe green (presented at the Refugee Studies conference, Oxford, March 2017)

The island of Lesvos has a population of 90,000 and the capital, Mytiline, 30,000. There are two main camps near Mytiline: Moria, falling under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Migration and, Kara Tepe, which comes under a municipality-appointed site manager. The town of Mytiline suffers from frequent electricity cuts, due to the antiquated grid and increased demands by the two camps, which at times host up to 6,000 people. While the west of the island has solar and wind produced energy, the capital depends on electricity produced from fossil fuels, provided on a weekly basis through pumping from a cargo ship which comes to the island.

Kara Tepe has a capacity to host 1,000 refugees and another 500 in a new extension, which is currently under construction. Since 2015, when the camp started operating, efforts have been made by the management with a volunteer-based Dutch NGO, Movement on the Ground (MoTG), to decrease dependence on the electricity grid and increase the energy self-reliance of the site. Over 2016 solar panels were installed to provide hot water for showers and light and a charging station for each of the refugee housing units (UNHCR provided), which were heated with gas heaters. Since January 2017 the units are being replaced by UNHCR with isoboxes, with the aim to reach a total of 300. The isoboxes will use air condition units for heating and cooling and expanding the existing system will be needed. The system installed by MoTG is modular and hybrid and can be powered by solar, wind, diesel generators and connect to the grid. The objective is to make Kara Tepe a ‘green village’, that doesn’t load the electricity grid and provides the energy the guests need for their daily needs.

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