By Taylor Luck

AMMAN – Jordan is three years away from its first operational wind farm as officials field interest in the country’s emerging renewable energy sector.

Energy officials expect a wind farm in Fujeij, the Kingdom’s first large-scale renewable energy project, to be operational by 2014, according to Ziyad Jibril, head of the Ministry of Energy’s renewable energy department.

The ministry will review feasibility studies for the 90-megawatt wind farm, recently approved by the World Bank, by the end of the year before selecting one of six short-listed bidders, he said.

The project is part of ongoing efforts to develop wind energy, which Amman prizes for its relatively low cost and short construction period, ministry officials have said.

In parallel with the Fujeij project, the government is narrowing down between two bidders for Kamsheh, a 40-megawatt wind plant that is years behind schedule due to differences over tariff pricing between the ministry and the original winning bidder, according to Jibril.

The ministry will task the selected firm with building the wind farm on the site near Jerash, some 50 kilometres northwest of the capital, by 2015, he added.

Meanwhile, 64 international companies expressed interest in carrying out various renewable energy projects in the Kingdom earlier this month, as the ministry moves to boost solar and wind power’s contribution to the country’s energy mix to 7 per cent by 2015.

“We have some of the biggest names from the US, South America and Europe and we will be working with them soon to develop renewable energy in Jordan,” Jibril told The Jordan Times.

Officials’ optimistic outlook for wind energy stands in contrast with more limited expectations for solar energy technology, which the ministry regards as “too immature” to solve Jordan’s energy woes.

“We realise solar energy is the future, but for now the technology is just not ready,” Jibril noted.

Amman’s drive for renewable energy, which is projected to make up 10 per cent of the Kingdom’s energy mix by 2020, is part of a greater strategy to wean the country off energy imports.

Energy officials are turning to solar and wind energy, along with ongoing development of oil shale and nuclear power, to reduce the Kingdom’s reliance on energy imports, which costs Jordan 23 per cent of its gross domestic product.