Solar Power Plant Opens at Chernobyl

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March 12, 2018 <

Ukraine is making the most of unusable land by setting up solar power generators on the site of Chernobyl, one of the world's worst nuclear disasters.

Solar panels at Chernobyl

To date, nearly 4,000 photovoltaic panels crown a 4-acre concrete slab that itself sits atop a mountain of radioactive waste, the by-product of the nuclear meltdown that occurred on April 26, 1986. A few dozen people were killed right away, and thousands more died as a result of the devastation. In addition, more than 110,000 people were forcefully removed from an exclusion zone that stretched for 1,000 square miles; the town of Pripyat, once home the reactor's workers, became a ghost town. The fallout contaminated up to three-quarters of Europe, many estimates say.

Ukraine is now its own country, having risen out of the demise of the Soviet Union, and sees itself as jumping in to the growing solar power market. In the wake of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, many other countries have committed to the pursuit of solar energy, among them the 121 members of the International Solar Alliance, which had its first meeting in India this week.

Ukraine's Solar Chernobyl SPP is a joint effort by the country's Rodina Energy Group and Enerparc AG, a company based in Hamburg, Germany.

The Chernobyl solar panels, which will generate enough power to supply 2,000 homes, fit in with Ukraine's overall plan of boosting renewable energy generation to 11 percent of the country's overall output, a goal that Ukraine's National Investment Council says it intends to meet by 2020. Ukraine's solar output is 1.2 gigawatts a year, which is low compared to some other countries but on par with some in Europe. At the moment, that solar output is enough to power 200,000 homes across the country. The Ukraine government is considering another 60 proposals from other potential generators of solar power.

The directors of Solar Chernobyl SPP see the use of otherwise uninhabitable land as symbolic or perhaps poetic. The company already has a larger site, in neighboring Belarus.

The solar panels are a few hundred feet from the much more well-known giant metal sarcophagus that absorbed the notorious Reactor Four, which caused the majority of the damage 32 years ago. The panels sit atop a large block of concrete because the soil in the area is still heavily contaminated.

Construction of the solar panels became possible in 2016, after Ukrainian authorities completed construction of the Shelter Object, a massive steel shelter designed to reduce emissions.

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