Sunday, August 07, 2016

Ukraine plans huge solar power plant at Chernobyl site

Imagine one of the largest solar farms ever at the site of the world's worst man-made nuclear disaster that struck Chernobyl in modern-day Ukraine and sowed panic across Europe.
That is the grand vision of Ukrainian Environment Minister Ostap Semerak, backed up by big-time investors such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The Chernobyl catastrophe of April 1986 left thousands dead or dying and created a contaminated no-man's land in northern Ukraine in which only a few hundred elderly people still cling on to their homes.

The 30-kilometer-wide exclusion zone surrounding the stricken station is primarily covered in forests and filled with radiation levels that make most foods produced there unsafe.

  • But Ukraine believes there are also around 6,000 hectares of open land that can be filled with solar panels that may one day produce about as much energy as Chernobyl's ill-fated reactor number four did in its time.

The EBRD has already said it was willing to support the project as long as Ukraine attracted the $1 billion needed to fulfill its first stage.

"A fairly large number of various companies across the world are interested," Semerak told AFP. "I think that, in case of successful negotiations, this project could be launched in full next year."

Ukraine is keen to break its dependence on energy giant Russia. About 50 percent of the former Soviet republic's energy is still produced by its remaining nuclear stations. Thermal power generation makes up for much of the rest.

Official statistics show solar panels accounting for less than 1 percent of the energy consumed in Ukraine.

The very first stage of the project should see Ukraine partner up with two private foreign firms to build a few small solar plants that generate about six megawatts of power by the end of this year.

That is still just a tiny fraction of the 4,000 megawatts pumped out by Chernobyl in its Soviet-era heydays.

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