Chernobyl goes green as solar plant nears completion

On 26 April 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place at a Soviet nuclear reactor in Ukraine. At that moment in time, Chernobyl was put on the map and has been remembered as a disaster that led to the displacement of an entire town and an irradiated no-go zone that’s straight out of a horror film.

Chernobyl goes green as solar plant nears completion

To remedy its rather poor reputation, the Ukrainian government has been working on building a new solar plant in the region to provide one megawatt of renewable power. The new plant is nearing completion and is located just 100 metres from the sarcophagus that encases the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

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“This solar power plant can cover the needs of a medium-sized village”, said Yevgen Varyagin of Solar Chernobyl in an interview with AFP. The plan is to expand the plant into other areas of Chernobyl meaning, instead of powering around 2,000 homes, it could produce enough energy to power 200,000.

chernobyl_recator_pipriyat_containmentThe covered Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and neighbouring Pripyat

The solar plant covers 16,000 square metres and uses 3,800 panels to generate electricity. Over time, this could expand into a 25 square kilometre space that’s now been made available for solar power developments. Currently, there are around 60 proposals to utilise the space properly and both Solar Chernobyl and its partners finished a 4.2-megawatt solar power plant in Belarus, which also falls in the irradiated zone.

Building in Chernobyl is a smart move by the Ukrainian government. Not only is the land already connected up to the national grid thanks to the Nuclear Power Station and the nearby town, but it puts the land to use around 24,000 years ahead of it being truly habitable again.

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“Bit by bit we want to optimise the Chernobyl zone,” Varyagin told Anna Hirtenstein at Bloomberg last year. “It shouldn’t be a black hole in the middle of Ukraine.”

It’s still not an entirely ideal situation though, all the panels sit on concrete slabs instead of being put directly into the ground or attached to buildings as both drilling and digging is still strictly prohibited. Still, if it takes some smart development ideas to make Chernobyl more than a horror story, I’m all for it.

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