The Ukraine’s ill-fated wasteland of Chernobyl may be about to serve a fresh purpose, as investors have applied for permission to turn the area into a large-scale solar park.
The 2,600-km² area, unsafe for human habitation following the reactor collapse and consequential nuclear disaster 31 years ago, is in the process of granting planning permission as 39 companies – including investors from Germany and China – seek to use the contaminated ground. Given the high rates of radiation that still exist below ground, potential uses for the site are limited, even following the installation of a new cover on the protective sarcophagus to prevent air contamination.
The proposal to use the area to generate solar power could be a great alternative to putting anything in the soil, with generated solar energy tapping into the existing grid infrastructure taking place as early as July 2017.
How could solar power be harnessed in Pripyat?
There are plans drawn up to install a total of two gigawatts of solar panels within the exclusion zone.
According to Ostap Semerak, the Ukrainian Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, companies are set to invest over $1 billion into the project, making effective use of land that is otherwise untenable. Chinese renewable energy group, Golden Concord Holdings (GLC), will install panels with a capacity of one-gigawatt this year, while a German renewable group will install a 500-megawatt capacity plant. Other smaller 20-megawatt solar parks will also be constructed to total 2 gigawatts of power. Dubbed the Chernobyl Solar project, the installations will present new opportunities for development in a special area of the exclusion zone, in keeping with all the necessary health and safety regulations. Power cables used in Chernobyl will be refitted with solar power cables to support the new installations, which when finished will generate enough energy to power roughly 750,000 modern homes.
By reclaiming what land is safe for use, Chernobyl could be giving this site of destruction and disaster a new lease of life. Many countries are adopting an increasing number of solar initiatives and, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar power will be the world’s largest electricity source by 2050. For investors, the government, renewable energy enthusiasts and those affected by the events of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, installing solar power in this area could be a step towards a more positive and energy-independent future for Ukraine.
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